GHOSTS AT THE OLD JAIL
CHRISTMAS AT ELWAY
MAN’S BEST FRIEND
SETTING THE SEASON’S TABLE
Virginia wine turns 400 Transatlantic vinocultural master Michael Shaps FALL/WINTER 2018-19 • $5.95
A new dining destination where every table is a chef’s table
“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 VA Fall Races
Horses History Dining Shopping
October • October 5-7: Mosby Heritage: Art of the Command Conference at the Community Center
Jumping Rocks Photography
• October13: 64th running of the Virginia Fall Races at Glenwood Park • October 18-21: 6th Annual Middleburg Film Festival • October 31: Hot Dog It’s Halloween at the Community Center
November • November 2,3,4: Christmas Shop at the Community Center • November 30: Tree lighting at the Pink Box
December • December 1: Christmas in Middleburg
February • February 15,16,17: Ultimate Winter Sidewalk Sale
March • Area Point-to-Point Race season starts
April • April 5,6,7: Shakespeare in the ‘Burg at Hill School
Red Fox Inn
Ongoing • National Sporting Library and Museum exhibit: Sidesaddle 1690-1935 Jodi Miller Photography
The Middleburg Business & Professional Association in support of the local business & retail community.
540 . 687 . 8888
www.visitmiddleburgva.com VA Fall Races
Red Fox Inn
Stonewall Manor, Amissville
Stonewall Manor has everything one could desire in a country estate. The comfortable 5 BRs, 5.5 bath manor house presides over 60 acres of immaculately groomed pastures, lawns, old stonewalls and a serene pond. Wonderful mountain views grace the horizon. The home is designed for luxury and simplicity. $2,595,000
Emerald Hill Farm, Sperryville
Emerald Hill Farm is ideal for a weekend retreat or full time farming operation on the Hughes River. The property is 35.4 acres (there are 2 lots) of lush hay fields, rolling pasture and mature woodlands. With the river, pond, fields and forest, the recreational opportunities seem unlimited. $795,000
Hazel Ridge Farm, Boston
Hazel Ridge Farm is a 115-acre property with frontage on Hazel River and Devilâ€™s Run and 360 degree mountain views. On the Culpeper/ Rappahannock County line. The property includes a small 2 BR cottage & garage. $995,000
Old Firehouse Hill, Castleton
The original 3 BR farmhouse c.1912 has been enlarged to accommodate a gourmet kitchen, great room & outdoor spaces that beckon with gardens & cool breezes. Original portion includes a main floor suite & a den/office with fireplace. Heated in ground Salt System gunite pool and 3 BR pool/ guest house. Perfect getaway & family compound on 24 acres! $849,000
Seronera has a special ambiance with a sense of time and place that makes it a quiet and relaxed refuge. The landscape on 61.3 acres is surrounded by 360-degree views of mountains, foothills, fields and rolling pastures, with the Blue Ridge and SNP to the west. Shade trees and landscaping featuring mostly native plants surround the 5 BR, 4.5 BA home. $1,295,000
307 Main Street, Washington
Located in Little Washington, the Shop on Main Street building has one of the best locations in town. The 3 floors currently contain a gallery/ retail space. Upper level has a 2 BR/1 BA apt. Business is not for sale. $545,000
General Banks, Madison
Located in the scenic Graves Mill Valley, General Banks features 162.7 acres of farmland and forest. With frontage on the Rapidan River and several mountain streams, the property features a wide diversity of native flora and fauna. $899,000
37 Main Street, Sperryville, VA 22740
ART AROUND US
‘Soho of the South’: Rappahannock’s Fall Art Tour At first glance there is nothing similar about New York City’s famed Soho Art District and rural Rappahannock County. Yet the tiny bucolic county, nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, turns into a mecca for art lovers when it hosts the Artists of Rappahannock Fall Art Tour on the first weekend in November.
the chance to see the working environs of the county’s talented artists set amid rolling hills and wooded hollows. This creative community works in a variety of media, ranging from painting to pottery, and sculpting to stain glass. Many of these artists have shown nationally and internationally.
Now in its 14th year, the art tour — Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 3-4 — has become one of the Piedmont’s peak autumn experiences. The county’s 7,000+ population swells with more than 1,000 weekend art lovers from the Mid-Atlantic. These aficionados come in search of quality art and
The two-day juried event features 10 galleries and 34 private studios hosting more Art isn’t the weekend’s than 100 artists. The tour only attraction. Local begins in the county B&Bs, restaurants, food IX Art Park seat ofCharlottesville’s Washington, Va. trucks, wineries and “Little Washington,” as it is breweries are offering tour known, is a two-hour drive visitors superb lodging or less from Washington, packages, drawings for D.C., Richmond, and free passes, discounted Charlottesville. Visitors tastings and to-go meals.
view a sampling of works at the tour headquarters (the historic Washington School), and receive a map which directs them to each of the tour locations. A fee of $10 admits visitors to all sites for both days, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.. The event funds grants to local artists by the Rappahannock Association for Arts and Community (RAAC. org), the tour’s host organization.
This year’s art tour features the work of more than 100 artists, including painter Kevin H. Adams, photographer Jackie Bailey Labovitz and glass artist Patricia Brennan.
To see a sampling of the art, get directions to tour headquarters and plan your Rappahannock
at willow grove
W W W . I N N A T W I L L O W G R O V E . C O M 2 PIEDMONTVIRGINIAN.COM |
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County experience, visit www.FallArtTour.org (#FallArtTour.org). — Charlotte Taylor
CONTENTS AUTUMN/WINTER 2018-2019 • VOLUME XII • ISSUE 2
7 Talking to Josie Spirits at the Fauquier History Museum at the Old Jail BY PAM KAMPHUIS
HOME & HOLIDAYS
28 Christmas at Elway
FOOD & WINE
Holiday Decor with Barry Dixon PHOTOGRAPHY BY JORDAN KOEPKE
Virginia is for Wine Lovers
A Celebration of Virginia’s Wine Heritage
BY MARK LUNA
Sometimes, even hard cases respond to a little affection
A Michelin ThreeStar Resort The Inn at Little Washington BY JOHN MCCASLIN
20 Three Blacksmiths Restaurant
BY GLENDA C. BOOTH
PHOTO BY JORDAN KOEPKE
51 Learning to Be a Dog BY ED FELKER
41 Anchored in Stone
Where every table is a chef’s table
A painter and a sculptor merge their visions
BY MORGAN HENSLEY
BY ANNE N. EDWARDS
The Wines of Michael Shaps
Treasure in our Backyard
Some of the finest Virginia wines in existence
The National Sporting Library & Museum
BY KEITH MILLER
Holiday decor at Elway
BY LAURA GRESHAM CLARK
54 Waiting to Say Goodbye BY STEPHANIE SLEWKA
CONSERVATION & STEWARDSHIP
62 A Family’s Legacy of Love for the Land BY PAULA COMBS, THE PIEDMONT ENVIRONMENTAL COUNCIL
On Gardening: Musings on Bugs, Jamestown, and Squashzoo BY CARLA VERGOT
60 Poetry of the Piedmont BY ANN DI FIORE
LIFE IN THE PIEDMONT
64 Mowing Is Manicuring BY TONY VANDERWARKER
ON THE COVER John and Diane MacPherson of Three Blacksmiths Restaurant in Sperryville. Photo by Douglas Graham PIEDMONTVIRGINIAN.COM |
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FOUNDING EDITOR: Walter Nicklin
CO-FOUNDERS: Arthur W. (Nick) Arundel, Sandy Lerner
PUBLISHER Dennis Brack EDITOR Pam Kamphuis SENIOR EDITOR Gus Edwards SALES DIRECTOR Jim Kelly DIGITAL MEDIA MANAGER Keriann Reeves ACCOUNTING MANAGER Carina Richard Wheat CIRCULATION MANAGER Jan Clatterbuck 540-675-3338 CONTRIBUTING EDITORS Glenda Booth, Ed Felker, Morgan Hensley, Jordan Koepke, Keith Miller, Tony Vanderwarker, Carla Vergot BEAGLE MIX Angel The Piedmont Virginian is published biannually by Rappahannock Media, L.L.C. 11 Culpeper St., Warrenton, VA 20186 540.349.2951, email@example.com Subscription inquiries: 540.675.3338 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, $15.95, Two-year rate, $29.95
Domestic Aspirations Daniel J Moore’s curated collection of fine home furnishings, art, and accessories. 8393 W Main Street; Marshall, Virginia 540.364.5343 x1 www.domesticaspirations.com
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© 2018 by Rappahannock Media, LLC. ISSN # 1937-5409 POSTMASTER: Please send address changes to The Piedmont Virginian, P.O. Box 59, Washington, VA 22747.
Glenda Booth, a freelance writer and editor who lives in Northern Virginia, writes about natural resources, historic sites, interesting people, public policy, travel, and other topics for magazines, newspapers, and online publications. She grew up in Southwest Virginia and received degrees from Longwood University and the University of Virginia. Laura Gresham Clark is an Entrepreneur in Residence for Georgetown University, a mentor for the National Science Foundation through George Washington University, and a mentor for Union Kitchen, a food accelerator in D.C. She founded Wylie Wagg, a regional retail chain, and was the company's CEO until its acquisition by a large national retailer in 2016. Prior to Wylie Wagg, she was a communications executive. She has a BA in Communications from Wake Forest University. Fauquier County native Paula Combs studied journalism and communications at the University of Colorado. Her career began in film production in Los Angeles, but she later transitioned to the environmental field. She returned to Virginia in 2014 and became the senior editor for The Piedmont Environmental Council. Ann DiFiore has written poetry and children's fiction since childhood. When she isn't writing, she's thinking about native plants or volunteering as a Master Naturalist. She lives in Northern Virginia with her husband, David...until they find their home in the Shenandoah foothills. Anne N. Edwards has been a Piedmont resident for about two decades. She is a published poet and has worked as an art writer, art critic, and art jurist. As a past and present board member of several notable arts institutions, including D.C.’s Corcoran
Gallery of Art and the Corcoran College of Art and Design, the Delaware College of Art & Design, New York’s
Pratt Institute, and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, she has been an outspoken advocate for arts education.
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OUR CONTRIBUTORS Ed Felker is a graphic designer, photographer, writer, outdoorsman and Virginia native. His award-winning writing and photography have been featured in many fine Virginia publications. Ed can most often be found outdoors near his studio overlooking the Potomac River, usually with a camera, often with a fly rod, always with a dog. Morgan Hensley is a writer whose work spans poetry, journalism, technical writing, and copywriting. He lives in Washington, D.C., but is no stranger to a roadtrip out to the country to find the inspiration, creativity, and tranquility that course through the landscape. Jordan Friel Koepke is an optimist who has chosen to see beauty as a career through the art of observation. She lives on a farm in Warrenton with her husband and two daughters. When not photographing she can be found playing Irish fiddle or working in the barn, where her current project is a young mustang mare. Mark Luna is a Portfolio Rep for Roanoke Valley Wine Company. He has a Level 3 Advanced Certification from the Wine & Spirits Education Trust (WSET) and is a member of the prestigious Wine Scholar Guild, where he’s finishing his Italian Wine Scholar post-nominal accreditation. Through and beyond his work for RVWC, Mark writes, teaches, and guest-speaks about wine in a variety of both industry and privately held events. He lives in Nokesville with his family.
KeIth Miller is a certified French Wine Scholar, certified Specialist of Wine, and certified sommelier. He works with the wine team at a five-star, five-diamond restaurant, and grows animals and vegetables on Touchstone Farm in Amissville. For Sale: Sperryville, VA. $634,990. Main residence and guest house. Old Rag Mt. area.
R LTDED BUYE O S SEN RE
Sold: Hume, VA. Main house on 50 acres. Mountain views. Specializing in properties in Fauquier and Rappahannock counties.
Gail Reardon 540.227.5052
Gail.Reardon@HCSIR.com HCSIR.com 2 W. Washington St., Middleburg, VA 20118
Sotheby’s International Realty and the Sotheby’s International Realty logo are registered (or unregistered) service marks. Sotheby’s International Realty Affiliates LLC fully supports the principles of the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Housing Act. Each office is independently owned and operated
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Tony Vanderwarker attended Andover and Yale, served in the Peace Corps, Marine Corps, and Army. A recovering adman, he has authored 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 Carla Hogue Vergot recently finished her first book, a mystery romance set in Marshall. She’s working on the second in the series. For fun, she and her husband Ricky work in the garden, play fetch with the dogs, and take jeeps off-road. Ricky points out that Carla’s planting skills far exceed her wheeling skills. To date, no one disagrees with that.
TALKING TO JOSIE SPI RITS G IV E A N A D D E D D I M E N S I O N TO
TH E FAUQUIER HISTO RY M U S E U M AT T H E O L D JAI L
BY PAM KAMPHUIS PHOTOS BY KARA THORPE
“Do you want to talk to Josie?” Erin Clark, executive director of the Fauquier History Museum at the Old Jail, asked me. Did I want to talk to Josie? Of course I wanted to talk to Josie! Normally I wouldn’t get that excited about conversing with a pre-teen girl; after all, they’re a dime a dozen, but this one was different. Josie Pattie died in the Old Jail’s residence in the 1870s, at the age of 11. How do I know that? I asked her myself, and she answered. As you may have guessed, the Fauquier History Museum at the Old Jail is thor-
oughly haunted. Josie is one of the betterknown ghosts, but there are others, some whose identities are known, and some more obscure ones. Spirits have been detected by different mediums who come in as visitors to the museum, usually with corroborating results. Culpeper Paranormal Investigations (CPI) has also helped with the identification and documentation of some of the ghosts. They said that the Fauquier History Museum at the Old Jail is one of the two most haunted locations they’ve investigated, the other being the
Erin Clark, Executive Director of the Fauquier History Museum at the Old Jail, communicates with resident spirits with dowsing rods. PIEDMONTVIRGINIAN.COM |
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“I THINK THE BIGGEST THING FOR US IS THAT IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT GOING IN AND DOING AN INVESTIGATION, IT’S ABOUT LEARNING ABOUT THE STORIES OF THE PLACE AND THE PEOPLE OF THE PAST. IT’S LIKE REACHING BACK AND TOUCHING HISTORY, IT’S LIKE STEPPING BACK IN TIME.” — Culpeper Paranormal Investigations
Kemper House in Madison. “We have captured evidence in almost every room at the Old Jail,” said Paul Warmack of CPI. The staff at the museum communicate with some of its spirits using dowsing rods. The L-shaped brass rods, usually known for detecting underground water, are also said to be sensitive to the energies of spirits. Held by one person, one in each hand, yes or no questions are asked, and if the rods cross, the ghost is answering “yes,” and if they separate, the answer is “no.” That was challenging for me...so many things I wanted to ask Josie, so many questions popping into my head, but so hard to think how to phrase my ideas as yes or no questions. I wanted to ask, what did she die of? How many brothers and sisters did she have? Did she go to school? What sort of games did she play with her friends? What was Warrenton like during Reconstruction? How did she dress? What did her mother 8 PIEDMONTVIRGINIAN.COM |
cook for dinner? When I visited the second time, with our photographer, Erin asked Josie if she’d ever had her photo taken. Unfortunately, the answer was no, otherwise I would have gone on a search for it...what wouldn’t I have given for a photo of Josie to go with this article? So, what’s it like working in the haunted building? Josie’s not the only ghost there, not by a long shot. Erin said, “We get asked about ghosts a lot. I always tell folks that if I were to tell them about all my experiences we would be here all day long.” As a museum director, Erin has worked in many historic buildings and homes, and admitted that the Old Jail is the most haunted place she’s experienced. “Our board of directors always jokes with me, asking if they told me the building was haunted during my interview, which they didn’t. In most jobs, on the first day of work, you meet the staff and get to know the building, where the coffee-
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maker is, that sort of thing. But here, you meet the ghosts. I met a ghost on the first day, using the dowsing rods. It took awhile for me to get used to being in the building by myself.” But, she said she’s never felt threatened or so scared she wanted to leave the building. CPI agreed that there don’t seem to be any evil or malevolent ghosts on the premises. How do the ghosts make themselves known? Usually, it’s sounds that alert the staff to the presence of spirits. Footsteps, sometimes the sounds of children running and playing (Josie and her siblings, perhaps?), a strong breeze through the hallway, previously closed and locked doors standing ajar when there’s no one else in the building and no wind to blow it open. Moving objects are rarer, but it does happen. An office door moving as if someone had bumped it passing by, a well-secured part of an exhibit
removed from the wall and fallen in an unlikely place. But there are visual signs too. “On our security cameras, there was a time from late May to early June, about nine or ten times during a two-week span, that we were catching a huge orb of light from one of the windows, floating around the room. It would be at different times, always at night, and it would move in different directions, up, down, right, left. You could see it turn, and see that it had dimension to it. One of the orbs had audio caught with it, too, on the security system. It sounded to me like a kind of a chime noise, but to some other people it sounds like a high pitched voice. My first reaction was to look for an explanation, like was someone outside with a flashlight, or was it a helicopter with a searchlight? I showed this video to board members and staff members, and we never found an explanation,” said Erin.
Josie’s story Josie’s family had a strong connection to the jail; both her father, Horace Pattie, and one of her brothers were resident jailers, Horace in the 1860s through 1880s and then Caldwell in the 1900s through the 1930s. Horace’s family lived in the jailer’s residence, and Josie’s mother would have cared for her own family as well as cooking two meals a day for the prisoners out of the residence’s kitchen. We know, from census records, that Josie was between 10 and 14 when she died. We also know the Patties lost several young children during the time they lived here, likely to illness or epidemic. Upstairs in the residence building, to the right of the stairs, there are two rooms. One would have been the children’s bedroom, presumably where Josie died, and the other likely the parents’ bedroom. These two rooms are where Josie hangs out. Erin’s office is in one of those rooms today.
Left: The original brick shows through on the wall of the stairway off the kitchen in the 1823 addition to the original 1808 jail building. Center: The maximum security cells in the 1823 building were in use until 1966 Right: Josie Pattie’s name is etched in the window in her bedroom upstairs in the 1823 addition. The etching appeared mysteriously in the 1970s.
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So how does she know when Josie’s there? Erin explained, “A lot of former directors of the jail have experienced her. She likes to tug hair gently. She also likes to tickle people’s elbows. Some directors have heard her laughing and playing. When I got my new desk, she would play with the shiny brass drawer pulls, flipping them up and down so they would ding. She did that for about a month after I got the desk, then it kind of quieted down. Maybe she was attracted to it because it was a new object. If I was a little girl in the 1870s I’d like a shiny brass knob, too. Once, when I was in the next room over, I was telling one of our board members the story, and shortly after I finished we could hear her playing with them. She knew that we were there, and she was just playing around.” More corroborating evidence: CPI said, “We’ve gotten recordings in there that sound like a little child’s voice, and we’re assuming that’s Josie.”
The Civil War Soldier A couple of other potentially identifiable spirits also inhabit the buildings. Josie has a companion ghost in the upstairs room, a Civil War soldier who has also communicated through the dowsing rods. Erin said, “His answers are always consistent. We have asked him many times through different people if he was Union or Confederate, whether he was infantry, cavalry, or artillery, and if he is buried in Warrenton. Every time he has answered that he was Confederate infantry, and he is indeed buried in Warrenton. Whenever we ask if he’s there protecting Josie, or if Josie’s there, he always says yes, and Josie says the same thing.” He has been potentially identified as Captain John Scott, via his very clear communications through the dowsing rods involving a laborious process of alphabetical yes or no questions. His name is on the Confederate Memorial here in Warrenton. He died in
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HISTORY OF THE FAUQUIER HISTORY MUSEUM AT THE OLD JAIL
the early 1900s, and it is not clear why he would be inhabiting the Old Jail. Mr. McGhee Another ghost that mediums often sense is Mr. McGhee. He lived in northern Fauquier County in the 1920s and he was most likely suffering from what we now know as dementia. Erin related, “He was afraid that someone was going to take his house, so he burned it to the ground and tried to take himself with it. He was arrested and brought to the jail here, and was charged with attempted suicide and arson. Since he was elderly, he was put in one of our maximum security cells so he could be watched. He came down with pneumonia, and while the staff was in the process of finding him a bed in an infirmary, he passed away here at the jail. He’s said to still be up there—there are accounts of other prisoners seeing the spirit of an elderly man with a beard who comes in the middle of the night and tries to take their blankets. And all the accounts were consistent, an exact description of Mr. McGhee. We have some photos of the cell back there where you can see a dark human-shaped shadow. We’re not sure if that’s Mr. McGhee but it’s in the right area where he would be, so it might be him.”
The Lady in White A few decades ago, the museum’s board of directors was having a meeting in the war room, and the shape of a lady dressed in white walked out of the fireplace. Five out of the six board members saw her. She walked back into the fireplace, and they picked up and moved their meeting elsewhere. “We’re not sure of her identity,” said Erin. “Supposedly she was one of the jailers’ wives. There’s a story here that one of the wives suffered severe burns from a fire and passed away a few days later, so that could be an explanation.” Erin said, “I always talk to the ghosts, I say hello and goodbye to them. And I acknowledge their existence. Whenever I hear something strange, I say out loud, ‘Yes, I hear you,’ and go about my day. I do feel that they listen. I think sometimes that’s what they want, to be remembered and noticed. When we had the orb back in May and June, one night when I was leaving I said good night, and I said, ‘I want to let whoever’s floating around in here know that we see you, and have a good night.’ And the orb hasn’t come back since. That was the last time we saw it. So that to me kind of sealed it. I don’t know if maybe it got scared, or maybe that’s all it needed, to know that we see it.”
The front stone building of the Old Jail, where the entrance to the museum and the gift shop are now, was built first, in 1808. It was the sixth jail built in the county, and it replaced older, wooden structures. Conditions there were deplorable, with four cells, no heat, no floor, and no full time jailer. There was one full time sheriff in the county, who cared for the prisoners as well as fulfilling the rest of his duties; there were no regular meals, and no toilet or bathing facilities. As a result, there was a lot of disease. In 1820, the state of Virginia sued Fauquier County due to the bad jail conditions. The newer stone jail was built in 1823, the original building was turned into the jailer’s residence, and the kitchen was added at that time. From then on there was a full time jailer who lived there with his family, and his wife had the job of cooking for the prisoners. The jail remained in service until 1966.
October 19, 20, 26, 27 Ghost Tours running at the Fauquier History Museum at the Old Jail. Schedule at fauquierhistory.org
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VIRGINIA IS FOR
WINE LOV E R S A Celebration of Virginia Wine Month and a Happy Anniversary to us All BY MARK LUNA PHOTOS BY DOUGLAS GRAHAM
utumn has fallen. And as it happens every year in our glorious Commonwealth, beautiful colors of yolk, russet, and vermilion overtake the maple, mulberry, and oak trees as the steady drop in temperature reminds us that we’re about to settle into the year’s homestretch. For me, no other month satisfies the love I have for this time of year than October, the first full month of the new equinox. I always find a new rhythm in my pace and the crisp air fills my senses with seasonal culinary and imbibing desires. It turns out, as good luck would have it, that October is also Virginia Wine Month. And this year’s annual observance may very well be the most anticipated one yet, as local wine producers and lovers alike prepare for 2019, celebrating Virginia’s 400th anniversary of winemaking history. For it was in 1619 that the first vines were planted in Virginia, with the hope and pursuit of pro12 PIEDMONTVIRGINIAN.COM |
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ducing the first American wines. To honor this milestone, a very special wine project was created and an equally unique wine was born. Virginia’s Heritage is the name given to both the commemorative endeavor and its dedicatory wine. Shepherded by the venerable Virginia wine producer Chris Pearmund of Pear-
mund Cellars in Broad Run, Virginia’s Heritage is a collaboration of sixteen of Virginia’s finest wineries. Pearmund asked that each producer contribute one to a few barrels of their best red Bordeaux-varietal wine, with the caveat that all fruit must be 100 percent Virginia sourced and harvested in either 2016 or 2017. In all, 10,000
bottles (more on that later) were assembled in August of this year, all from the finest (red) wine grapes that Virginia has to offer, including Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, and even Tannat… thank you, Madiran! Aged in Virginia oak barrels, Virginia’s Heritage Red Wine is an elegant, cultured
Left: Virginia’s Heritage, bottled and labeled for sale. The wine labels are printed on thin sheets of birchwood. Top: Cabernet Franc vines at Philip Carter Winery in Hume. The Carter family has deep roots in Virginia wine making, dating to 1763.
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blend, produced by “A Consortium of Virginia’s Finest Wineries Contributing in Unison,” as noted on the front of its beautiful birchwood label. The back label, also made of birchwood, is a peek into the heart and soul of this project. It reads: In the year 1619, Vitis Vinifera vines were first brought from Europe to America with the intent to produce wine in Virginia. Eight vignerons were brought from France to set the stage for a thriving wine industry 400 years later. Virginia’s Heritage is a celebration of this historic event. This limited-edition Virginia wine is a blend from many of the state’s finest wineries, in recognizing Virginia as the cradle of American Winegrowing. Perhaps you’re wondering, what is vi-
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tis vinifera? Well, in its simplest and most literal form, vitis is the genus of the plant kingdom that includes the vine, and vinifera is the European species (of vitis) that is the vine most used for wine production. To understand the significance of this, a little Virginia history is in order. As I was taught in school, and learned again in my visit with Pearmund, an avid historian, Virginia was the first permanently-settled English colony in North America. It was named “Virginia” in 1584, in honor of Queen Elizabeth I, and is thought to have been coined by Sir Walter Raleigh, for whom Raleigh, N.C., was named. In 1607, members of a London-based venture called The Virginia Company were sent to
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the new colony and ultimately founded Jamestown. The next few years were near catastrophic, however, as famine, disease, and conflict consumed the new locals. But, more settlers and supplies would arrive in 1610, eventually stabilizing a desperate environment and bringing a renewed vigor of growth. As English interests in expanding colonization were strong, self-sustaining growth was imperative. But in order to obtain fine products such as wine, silk, and olive oil, England had to pay cash to rivals Spain and France. Having its own resources in a new colony, however, would eliminate this unwelcome reality, so a decision was to be made. Tobacco quickly became Virginia's first
Clockwise from top left: Grapes on the vine at Narmada Winery in Amissville; Dr. Sudha Patil, owner and winemaker at Narmada Winery; Philip Carter Strother, owner and operator of Philip Carter Winery in Hume, in his vineyard; the vineyard at Pearmund Cellars; Chris Pearmund, owner of Effingham Manor & Winery
profitable export, and its financial impact was significant. But Jamestown locals maintained the belief that Virginia could also become a major source of wine for the British Empire, and in 1619 the newly formed House of Burgesses – predecessor to today’s Virginia General Assembly – enacted a law expressly requiring that each landowner ‘yearly plant and maintain 10 vines until they have attained to the art and experience of dressing a vineyard either by their own industry or by the instruction of some vigneron.’ This law was called the Twelfth Act of the Original Acts, and was the earliest documented effort to transplant European vines to eastern America. That very year, 1619, eight vignerons (French for
vine grower) were sent to Virginia to plant vines and thus, the Virginia wine industry was born. By 1621, ten thousand vines were brought from Europe by The Virginia Company, and this is the inspiration for the number of Virginia’s Heritage Red Wine bottles produced. Over the ensuing decades, vines were often lost as a result of failed harvests and the plant-eating louse, phylloxera, yet wine growers would persist in Virginia. Notable figures such as Charles Carter, often touted as the founding father of American wine; Thomas Jefferson, of course; and Dr. Daniel Norton, whose name is synonymous with Virginia’s most famous indigenous red
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wine grape, would help shape and define the Virginia wine landscape forever. The Prohibition era dealt a heavy blow, and it would take decades for the industry to recover. But new and successful plantings of vinifera in the 1950s would be a turning point for Virginia wine. That said, it was still illegal to grow grapes and make wine on the same property, and that would last another 20 years. The law finally changed in the early 1970s and as a result, six new wineries emerged. The Virginia wine industry never looked back. By 1995, there were 46 open for business and by 2005, there were 107, a phenomenal growth rate by any standard. Included in all of this is the Virginia Wineries Association (VWA) formed in 1983, which, as highlighted on its website, “grew out of the desire by owners of Virginia wineries to create a wine community that shared ideas and resources to the benefit of everyone in the Virginia wine industry.” Its
annual wine competition, The Governor’s sealed will stay with me for years. The glass Cup, honors the best wines and brightest I had with Pearmund and the crew was an talent in the Virginia wine industry. equally nice moment. Today, Virginia ranks fifth in the naAs for the wine’s composition, Virginia’s tion for wine grape production and sixth Heritage Red Wine is a Bordeaux-esque for number of wineries, with upwards of blend, comprised in approximate percent300 that are open for business. There are ages of 50 percent Merlot, 20 percent Peseven AVAs (American Viticultural Area) tit Verdot, and a 30 percent collective of that pepper the state, with each geographi- Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and cal designation showcasing the grapes that Tannat, a personal favorite. The barrels, as grow best and the wines they produce. mentioned before, were of 2016 and 2017 Which brings me back to our sole wine harvests; as it turns out, more than 90 perof the month and the partners who helped cent of the fruit is from 2016. to create it. Pearmund shared with me, “Texture is I had the privilege and true pleasure of really important, as is the diversification of tasting Virginia’s Heritage Red Wine on flavor. I think we’ve achieved that and I’m the day it was bottled at Effingham Manor very excited about this wine!” and Winery, a second Pearmund winery in Winemaker and Narmada Winery coNokesville. It was August 14. The wine was owner Sudha Patil, who also contributed aged and blended at the beautiful, historic a barrel of the predominant Merlot, addestate, and the excitement of watching the ed, Virginia, Merlot is a special grape Quality “InService Selection first bottles get filled, labeled, corked, and because it ripens early, doesn’t get hit too
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hard, and it’s a very flavorful fruit, you can actually eat it!” I completely agree, as all the varietals themselves showed up, ready to perform. In my tasting, I immediately noticed the dense ruby color, with a very light purple on the rim. Being freshly bottled, this wine was a newborn. After several wrist-swirls, I stuck my nose deep into the glass and was taken in by a big wash of dark red and black fruits, an innocent shadow of Virginia oak and faint hints of both herbal spice and mint leaf. There was a rustic nature to the bouquet and it took me back to a log cabin in the woods that I lived in years ago; and for second there, I thought I might’ve just poured myself a glass of Rioja! On the palate, the wine was lively and fresh, medium-bodied with good up-front acidity and splashy fruit. As expected from a young, tight wine, with both Petit Verdot and Tannat in the mix, there was a tannic
presence towards the back, but the Merlot kept it under control. What caught me the most, however, was the balance of the wine. Nothing stood out too much, nothing was lost. And with an ABV level just under 13.5 percent, I have no doubt that this wine will
“In Virginia, Merlot is a special grape because it ripens early, doesn’t get hit too hard, and it’s a very flavorful fruit, you can actually eat it!” age beautifully for the next several years. As I mentioned earlier, the wine labels are printed on thin sheets of birchwood. Additional packaging reflects Colonial roots and the wine bottle is rested in a
Virginia-made commemorative box, surrounded by ribbon shavings of the same birchwood. The cover label on the box is a reprint of the 1619 Virginia Company seal. The entire presentation is beautiful. The wine will be featured at both the Mount Vernon Fall Wine Festival this month and at the Virginia Executive Mansion, in Richmond. From its onset, Virginia’s Heritage has been a collaborative effort, and its undertaking wouldn’t have happened if not for the contributions of the 16 wineries involved. Each of these wonderful destinations, located throughout the state, bring their own unique story to the grand table of Virginia wine, and I encourage you and yours to travel to these places, meet the families and friends who run them, and share in their gifts of award-winning wines and friendship. Virginia’s Heritage Red Wine will
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WINE be sold in select local wine retailers, online through Pearmund Cellars, and in the tasting rooms of these beautiful, partnering wineries: Aspen Dale Winery at the Barn, in Delaplane; Cooper Vineyards in Louisa; Effingham Manor & Winery in Nokesville; Glass House Winery in Free Union; Ingleside Vineyards in Oak Grove; Naked Mountain in Markham; Narmada Winery in Amissville; New Kent Winery in New Kent County; Philip Carter Winery in Hume; Pearmund Cellars in Broad Run; Potomac Point in Stafford; Rappahannock Cellars in Huntly; Rosemont of Virginia Winery in La Crosse; Vint Hill Craft Winery in Vint Hill; Williamsburg Winery in Williamsburg; and The Winery at Bull Run in Centreville. Virginia’s Heritage and its commemorative, eponymous wine are a true reflection of our great Commonwealth, and all that she represents…shared roots, pride and purpose. And I think Pearmund said it best when he remarked, “It really takes a community to raise a foal, and this wine is a child of all of us.” Happy Vino’ing!
VIRGINIA’S HERITAGE IS AVAILABLE IN THE TASTING ROOMS OF THE 16 PARTICIPATING WINERIES: Aspen Dale Winery at the Barn, Delaplane / AspenDaleWinery.com Cooper Vineyards, Louisa / CooperVineyards.com Effingham Manor & Winery, Nokesville / EffinghamManor.com Glass House Winery, Free Union / GlassHouseWinery.com Ingleside Vineyards, Oak Grove / InglesideVineyards.com Naked Mountain, Markham / NakedMountainWinery.com Narmada Winery, Amissville / NarmadaWinery.com New Kent Winery, New Kent / NewKentWinery.com Pearmund Cellars, Broad Run / PearmundCellars.com Philip Carter Winery, Hume / PCWinery.com Potomac Point, Stafford / PotomacPointWinery.com Rosemont of Virginia Winery, LaCrosse / RosemontOfVirginia.com Rappahannock Cellars, Huntly / RappahannockCellars.com Vint Hill Craft Winery, Vint Hill / VintHillCraftWinery.com Williamsburg Winery, Williamsburg / WilliamsburgWinery.com The Winery at Bull Run, Centreville / WineryAtBullRun.com
Chris Pearmund invites you to enjoy Effingham Manor & Winery - your Destination Winery in Prince William County.
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Effingham Manor & Winery - Make Your Own History Here. 14325 Trotters Ridge Place; Nokesville, VA • 704.594.2300 • www.EffinghamManor.com
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Three Stars and a Sitcom The Inn at Little Washington becomes ‘D.C.’s’ only three-star Michelin restaurant — and the subject of two TV series BY JOHN McCASLIN
eptember was quite a month for The Inn at Little Washington’s Patrick O’Connell. First, as part of the Inn’s 40th anniversary celebration, a tie-dye t-shirt-wearing O’Connell took the stage and emceed Innstock, a Woodstock-themed outdoor party that attracted more than a thousand guests to the town of Washington, which usually has about 130 residents. Less than two weeks later, the renowned chef and proprietor received tremendous word that the Inn joins an elite club of restaurants worldwide recognized with the Michelin Guide’s highest rating — three stars, the first and only restaurant in the national capital region to achieve the prized honor. Then Hollywood called, so to speak, with NBC revealing that “The Inn Crowd,” a working name for a sitcom comedy based on O’Connell and his former partner Reinhardt Lynch, is in development with Jim Parsons as executive producer. Parsons stars in the popular series “Big Bang Theory,” now in its 12th and final season. While no release date has been announced, Deadline Hollywood is reporting that the primetime series will be based on a 1999 New Yorker article, also titled “The Inn Crowd,” penned by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Tony Horwitz and centered “around a gay couple who divide a small town when they open a very successful inn.” Asked about the sitcom during an interview on the Michelin honors, a seemingly none-too-pleased O’Connell said: “We haven’t flushed that out yet.” He then added: “I’m somewhat concerned that NBC is moving ahead without any [prior] arrangement [with the Inn]. That’s being discussed with the lawyers.” O’Connell, on the other hand, was pleased to disclose that PBS is currently
working on a “six part series” about the Inn, which he made a point of saying was filmed “with our complete consensus, approval and participation.” “The first segment is being edited right now,” he said. “I’m not sure if there is an air date, but it’s quite a fascinating story.” As for the rare Michelin recognition, the innkeeper equated it to the highest honor in the hospitality sector. “In our industry this is like winning the Olympic gold medal, the Nobel Peace Prize, and the lottery all rolled into one.
bucket lists and plan a trip around it,” he explained. “One of the most exciting things for our region — our town, our county, and even state — is this designation gives it a cachet it never had before . . . Everyone stands to benefit.” Michelin’s starred system denotes restaurants that are worth a stop (one star), a detour (two stars) or a special journey (three stars), rating such worthy establishments in 30 countries and on four continents. Michael Ellis, international director of the Michelin Guide, said in a statement:
Chef Patrick O’Connell announces The Inn at Little Washington’s third Michelin star to his staff.
There’s nothing comparable for us,” he said. “It’s a minor miracle.” Since the Michelin announcement of Sept. 13, O’Connell said he’s been fielding congratulatory phone calls from seemingly “every country in the world,” including from fellow three-star establishments “welcoming us to the club.” O’Connell sees the Michelin designation as a “big boost,” not only for the Inn, but for Rappahannock County as a whole. He drew attention to globetrotters who “travel solely by the Michelin Guide — from China, Japan, South Korea, Canada, and Saudi Arabia.” “It’s a rarity when a place receives a Michelin third star, and people put it on their
“This is a wonderful distinction for the Inn at Little Washington, which celebrated its 40th anniversary earlier this year. Over several visits, our inspectors were most impressed by the balance of creative, chefdriven cuisine and impeccable technique from chef O'Connell.” The chef said that it’s onward and upward for his Inn and its staff of 150, that nobody will be resting on their laurels. “We’ve polished the performance a great deal this year above what it was last year,” he said. “We’ve developed a stronger team spirit than I ever imagined we could have here.” In the kitchen alone, he said, “we [created] three new dishes yesterday that are going on the menu tonight.”
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Flavor Forged Out of Exploration, Novelty, and Community BY MORGAN HENSLEY, PHOTOS BY DOUGLAS GRAHAM
nside: rough-hewn wooden ceilings, a burning pyramid of kindling, sheepskins on the wall, a metal chandelier that appears as vines and a nest; there is in Three Blacksmiths something wholly unexpected at a restaurant and still pleasantly familiar. While Three Blacksmiths seems like the successor to owners John and Diane MacPherson’s previous endeavor, the Foster Harris House in Washington, Va., the concept for the new restaurant originated during a two-month adventure throughout Europe. The couple explored the continent’s diverse culinary offerings, amassing a library of 800 photos. These snapshots were arrayed into a vision board, one that united the disparate details that made each location remarkable: the cuisine, the atmosphere, the service, the interior design — all of the components, both obvious and not, of an unforgettable dining experience. “We took what we wanted from modern, edgy restaurants, like Heston Blumenthal’s nitrogen ice cream, as well as con-
cepts from a 400-year-old tavern in England with low ceilings, crooked doors, and creaky floors. And everything in between, too.” John says. That “in between” is where the magic of Three Blacksmiths resides. It’s a quality that says “comfort” and “homeyness” — perhaps even “intimacy.” With fire and stone and aromatic smoke wafting from the wood-burning oven, the essence of the restaurant reveals itself. It is sheltering, nourishing, and surrounded by the friendly faces of happy diners, it urges us to unwind and be open to new experiences that challenge and delight our expectations. Every seat in Three Blacksmiths is a seat at the coveted chef ’s table. There is no mysticism or subterfuge; the kitchen is not separated. There is no distinction. There is only fluidity. You are able to watch as food is prepared and witness the spectacular focus of the chefs and the care that graces each dish. “During our travels, one thing that struck us was that restaurants — without making a big deal about it — would use ingredients that were farmed or produced nearby and then
The exterior (above) and interior (right) of the Three Blacksmiths. The circa 1979 building was originally a shallow pitched-roof cinder block structure. The new exterior was designed by architect Dwight McNeill, and the interior was entirely designed and built by John and his sous chef Ethan Taylor. 20 PIEDMONTVIRGINIAN.COM |
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they’d prepare them in the simplest way,” John says. “The dishes were fresh and beautiful and inspiring. So we take direction from where we live and what’s available to us: use great ingredients, don’t mess with them too much, and make them beautiful and delicious.” Whatever neighboring farms have to offer is prominently featured. The amuse bouche epitomized this concept and perfectly set the tone: a trifecta of delicate, bite-sized treats served as a prologue for what was to come. The theme of the dish was Whippoorwill Farm, as each component highlighted one offering from the neighboring farm. The first of the three featured a charred shishito pepAbove: Pan seared per, braised and stuffed with goat cheese. Together, diver scallop with the dissimilar components accentuated each othsaffron coconut milk and ers’ fundamental creaminess. The next “course” was forbidden rice crackers. built around a fairytale eggplant paired with olive Left: Cucumber Soup tapenade, tomato, capers, and blue cornflowers, or with dill oil, trout roe, “bachelor buttons.” The sliver of eggplant served as and house-made a dish for the meticulously arranged, summery topcreme fraiche. 22 PIEDMONTVIRGINIAN.COM |
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pings. Finally, there was a pastry filled with mascarpone cheese diner experienced the same ebbs and flows, the sparkle of cubalanced by the peppery spark of arugula. The dish introduced riosity as each dish was brought out and the anticipation of a theme for the night: the defamiliarization and deconstruc- the next course, as a collective unit. Given Three Blacksmiths’ tion of local flavors, ones with which we’re all well-acquainted, prioritization of community, this is not accidental. “Because the entire dining room is seated at the same time yet somehow surprised when they are drawn into contrast by and we serve just one menu, there’s a other complimentary pairings. rhythm to the evening,” Diane notes. An amazing glass of wine foreshad“Guests may be sitting at different tables, owed the first course. The 2015 Domaine “Because the entire but they’re sharing a common experience Bott Geyl Points Cardinaux Métiss from dining room is seated and you can feel the change in the pace Alsace, France, combines four pinots: at the same time and as the meal progresses, just as you would noir, blanc, gris, and auxerrois. The last we serve just one menu, at a dinner party. No one is looking at grape is rare, the outlier among the other three, and the wine paired perfectly with there’s a rhythm to the someone else’s plate thinking, ‘I wish the next course, a diver scallop bathed in evening... Guests may be I had ordered that instead,’ and guests bustling in for their first course as saffron-infused coconut milk. The welsitting at different tables, aren’t others are putting on their coats to leave.” come brininess of the scallop was ignited but they’re sharing a Instead, guests can wander and mingle by the notes of saffron. This was simple, between courses, glance at neighboring this was beautiful, this was delicious: the common experience” tables and see in others’ faces the same perfect embodiment of the MacPhersons’ gleeful delight they feel as they partake in a shared experience. vision for the restaurant’s menu. The next course, the “Soup ’n’ Salad,” included a cucumWhen the dishes and utensils were cleared, another dimension of the dining experience revealed itself: a discernible, ber soup rich with shallots and garlic, as well as the “salad” shared cadence that rendered all diners in sync. Every guest of basil, dill, parsley, and tarragon, which was accented with was served the same dish at the same time. That is to say each house-made lemon ricotta. The chill of the soup offset the res-
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taurant’s cozy ambiance. I hadn’t before realized how much of an interrelation existed between the menu, architecture, and design. The warmth and invitation of the room is then folded back into the food as a wooden box filled with hot river stones and textured, house-made bread arrives. Everyone accepts that presentation is paramount to the success of a dish. At Three Blacksmiths, the presentation encompassed the entire experience, woven throughout the night. In the background, Dave Brubeck’s classic jazz standard “Take Five” resonates. There’s a connection here once again, though instead of the decor and sense of place it’s the music. Jazz’s willingness to experiment, to venture away from the familiar chord or everyday time signature is reflected in Chef MacPherson’s love of tinkering with our expectations. This approach manifests itself in the next course, a variation on farfalle. Instead, we are served “palalle,” from the Italian for “shovel.” It is a soft, buttery pasta the size of a palm and cradles a bounty of mushrooms: kigali, shiitake, pio pio, their stems reduced into an earthy distillation. One detects the presence of summer truffle in the dish, its garlicky and pungent flavors nestled comfortably alongside those of the mushrooms. Together, the flavors overlap but remain distinct. Then there is the tenderloin brushed with sorghum and finished with fire. While John tells me the menu changes a little every seating and entirely every three weeks, this dish could
remain a staple, an anchor to the rotation and novelty if only the owners’ vision were not so uncompromising about using what is fresh and local. The succulent, tender meat — was accentuated with beer-braised chard, a nod to soul food and its inherent comfort. Apple and blackberries added a tart, organic flourish. Sugar snow peas and a cluster of nasturtiums absorbed these tastes, and in doing so, gave the same flavors a different texture. Rather than merely describe the dessert — the crunch of the crust, the sticky-sweet, smile-inducing peaches — it’s better to describe what led to the dessert. Earlier that summer day, John was purchasing groceries from a corner market when he noticed the unseasonably early and unusually small peaches. Astonished as much by the potent, saccharine punch as he was by the sheer fact that they were available, he travelled to the source: Thornton River Orchard. There he was asked to wait for the owner to gather a half-bushel of peaches, but in a hurry to begin the night’s preparations, he rushed back to the restaurant. Some time later, the orchard’s owner arrived with these succulent peaches teeming with nectar. What is the refrain that resounds at Three Blacksmiths? Use what is fresh, what is nearby, don’t mess with it too much, make it beautiful. Such a simple strategy runs the risk of appearing easy, as well. It isn’t, but Three Blacksmiths makes it seem that way.
Above left: Sous chef Ethan Taylor with Jonn and sous chef Connor Hartman prepare for the evening service. Above right: John slicing a maitake mushroom which is destined for the Summer Truffle and Wild Mushroom Piegatelle (custom pasta) with a porcini broth. 24 PIEDMONTVIRGINIAN.COM |
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TWENTY FOUR YEARS OF EXPERIENCE SHINE THROUGH IN THE WINES OF MICHAEL SHAPS The Charlottesville winemaker produces some of the finest Virginia wines in existence.
BY KEITH MILLER PHOTOS BY CAMDEN LITTLETON
ichael Shaps has a lot going on. For years, the Michael Shaps label has produced many of the finest Virginia wines in existence, consistently winning countless medals at the prestigious Virginia Governor’s Cup competition. He also makes 250 different lots of wines at Michael Shaps Wineworks in Charlottesville, most of which are for other wineries. He also produces a line of burgundies in France under the Maison Shaps label. My first taste of his wine was the Michael Shaps Petit Manseng, which was a completely new Virginia white wine experience, and I found it outstanding. I first met him on a 2016 visit to his winery, where he joined us in the tasting room with a warm welcome and generously opened several bottles that weren’t on the tasting menu. The quality of the wines was apparent across the board. The Wild Meadow Chardonnay and red meritage both stood out as exceptional. I was lucky enough to catch up with Michael again this year. It was a rare opportunity to get the past, pres-
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ent, and future of his winemaking journey directly from the source. The early years are a fascinating story. To summarize, Shaps was “bitten by the bug,” as he put it, in the mid ‘80s while working at top restaurants in Boston. Early on, he decided making wine was his path. This transition from restaurants to winemaking is not uncommon. It is, however, usually over a decade in the making. Undaunted, Shaps set his sights on viticulture school in France’s most prestigious wine region: Burgundy. It took a prolonged and concerted effort to convince dubious school authorities to award him a space in their work/study program. They finally agreed to let him try in 1990. He spent two hands-on years there, immersed in learning the craft. Quite an 26 PIEDMONTVIRGINIAN.COM |
accomplishment, especially considering Monsieur Shaps’ endeavors to learn French before the program hadn’t met with success. His is a quintessential American story of hard work and determination “bearing fruit.” On completion of the impressive apprenticeship abroad, he returned Stateside and began looking for opportunity. In his own words, he was “kinda cocky” as he sought a winemaker position. He wasn’t about to start at the bottom to work up and soon understood this largely ruled out potential employment on the West Coast. I asked how his path led to Virginia. “In 1989, Wine Spectator magazine had an article on Virginia as an up and coming wine region,” he replied. To my astonishment, he pulled out that very issue of the
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magazine. Back then, it was printed on a large broadsheet format. He leafed through the pages to the article and pointed at a photo. “This is our neighbor, Mike Boles, with Montdomaine, where I ended up,” he added. “People told me I was crazy to come to Virginia.” There were 42 wineries at that time, compared to some 280 at present. He initially worked at Jefferson Vineyards and was quickly consulting for others with the increasing demand for expertise. Michael’s first Virginia vintage was 1995. The Michael Shaps label debuted in 2000, when he partnered with King Family Vineyards. For the next seven years, he would make wines for both the Michael Shaps and King Family labels at their facility in Crozet. In 2004, Shaps and a partner
from his viticulture school days started a winery in the heart of Burgundy, making him Virginia’s first, and to my knowledge, only, “flying winemaker.” This is an industry term for persons who produce wine in different spots on the globe. Flying winemakers are well acquainted with jet lag and accrue enviable amounts of flyer mile points. The Maison Shaps label produces many different Burgundy wines. In 2007, he and a former partner purchased the Montdomaine winery, the same location that was featured in that old Wine Spectator issue. The old Montdomaine sign still hangs inside the Michael Shaps Wineworks door. With his own equipment and space enough to produce far more wine than his own, he delved into contract winemaking, making the wine and managing the vineyards for other wineries. This grew very quickly and at one time there were even clients from neighboring states. Michael Shaps Wineworks now produces wines from a wide range of varietals for himself and 17 clients. To me, the concept seems not just daunting, but miraculous, especially at harvest. Harvest time is always nearly roundthe-clock, “all hands on deck” crunch time for every winery. “In most wine regions, harvest lasts a week or two,” Michael explained. “For us, it’s late August to late October.” There have been three expansions
at the facility over time that have made the operation more manageable, and precision management, software, and barcode implementation have played a heavy role in the efficiency of the operation. Michael Shaps Wineworks has relocated two old tobacco barns to the property. These serve a dual purpose: to dry grapes for the passito style dessert wine called Raisin d’etre, and also to mitigate rain damage during harvest. Grapes can absorb water and become diluted if it rains at harvest, and Shaps uses one of the old barns for machinery that uses reverse osmosis to remove some of the water. He feels it adds some complexity to the wine. I asked Shaps about his future plans. “We’re in the process of buying Shenandoah Vineyards,” he replied. Founded in 1976, Shenandoah Vineyards is one of the oldest wineries in the state. It’s also one of the few spots planted to riesling. “It’s got great soils with less clay and more limestone,” he said with enthusiasm. “We hope to set up shop there this fall.” The Shenandoah region is cooler and drier than Virginia’s other wine growing areas; Master of Wine Jay Youmans flagged the Shenandoah Valley as the area with the greatest untapped potential for wine in our state. Before I left, we tasted through what is currently available in the tasting room.
Fresh tropical notes and a creamy elegance reminded me how superb the Petit Manseng wine is. His Viognier and Cabernet Franc are some of the best examples out there. This was my first taste of the intriguing and complex L. Scott red blend. This wine has quite a bit of the Tannat grape, a little known varietal native to southwest France that is showing great potential for Virginia vintners. A week after visiting with Shaps, I paid a visit to Wineworks Extended, the warehouse and retail location. A small parking lot and charming wine bar at the entrance nearly disguise the immense warehouse behind. There are two menus of four wines each on offer, from Virginia and France. The first menu features wines that come directly from kegs, from which locals can have growlers refilled with the wine that’s on tap each week. These Virginia wines are under a separate label from Michael Shaps, simply called Wineworks. All were good quality and reasonably priced, with the fresh and lively Viognier being my favorite. The other menu is from bottle. Morgon was my favorite from this menu; it had great concentration, fruit, and depth. The Michael Shaps Odette, a white blend, was intriguing and delicious. The “baristas,” Lauren and Jim, were pleasant and knowledgeable behind the bar. I also got a peek behind the wizard’s curtain to see the keg room and voluminous barrel storage, which provided further insight into the scope of the Shaps operation. If you enjoy Virginia wine and have yet to try the wines of Michael Shaps, it’s time to get on board. I definitely suggest a visit to both Michael Shaps Wineworks and Wineworks to enjoy some of the best wine Virginia has to offer. Cheers! MICHAEL SHAPS WINEWORKS 1781 Harris Creek Way Charlottesville VA. 11am - 5 pm daily www.virginiawineworks.com. Wineworks Extended 1585 Avon Street Extended Charlottesville VA 1pm -7 pm daily
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PHOTOS BY JORDAN KOEPKE
s the “olde” saying goes…Christmas comes but once a year. Though it does seem to come around a little faster as I’ve, shall we say, matured, it nevertheless flashes by at lightning speed, gone all too soon as anticipation gives way to memory. The quiet spirit of human warmth and kindness, the elevated sense of joy and revelry, the easy laughter and the natural, seasonal swell of gratitude and compassion are a spiritual balm, a soul-warming antidote to so many of the year’s other days. Many of us feel it’s worth taking a little time and applying a bit of thoughtful effort to set the stage for Christ’s eponymous day…God’s perfect gift. The milieu of the holiday is a magical mix of shared traditions and personal recollections. Our senses swoon with the seasonal intermix of smells and textures, tastes and music…at the very sight of halls decked and ready for yet another hearty round of merrymaking. We consider all of these senses every December as we decorate Elway Hall for another Yuletide season. Every fragrant bough clipped on our Fauquier County farm lends a sense of place. Each blown glass ornament recalls another time, another tree. Every twinkling light sparkles with the memory of loved ones old and young, here and gone, celebrating the sacred joy of Christmas. —Barry Dixon 28 PIEDMONTVIRGINIAN.COM |
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HOME BARRY DIXON’S CHRISTMAS
The entrance of Elway is graced with a root balled tree which will be planted on the property after the holidays. “I keep it very very simple, I don’t use lights, even white lights, in the outdoor decorations. Its just pretty naturally, especially the evergreens which really show up in the winter; we just let them make their statement.” The scene is adorned with bittersweet and holly, collected right on the property, and a woven wicker basket filled with oversize pinecones collected in Colorado. The wreath is constructed with fresh local greens sourced from the property or local farms and decorated with cloved oranges, pine cones, nuts, and fruits. Uniquely, also featured are pumpkins grown on the property. “We have them out there for the Thanksgiving holiday, and it’s just a week or so later that we decorate for Christmas, so we like to leave them. If you look at a lot of the old illustrations of Christmas decorations in Europe there were a lot of pumpkins, and I kind of like carrying that over. I don’t like just the traditional reds and greens, I see orange as a shade of red, if you will, so it can take the place of a bright red. And maybe a chartreuse can take the place of a traditional Christmas green. So we use those with the traditional red and green just so we break up that formula, the monotony. By the time you put it all together you’re not relegated to what you’d think of as strictly Christmas colors.”
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Above: “In the formal dining room, almost all of the decorations are from our farm here. On the left, white pumpkins are set off by a glowing marble globe, and magnolia branches flank the mirror. We didn’t really do much of a tablescape since we had the elaborate mantel, which is decorated with a cedar and spruce garland with Limelight (green) and Annabelle (white) hydrangeas that we cut in the summer and dry in the barn to use here. On the right in the vase is nandina.” Left: “On the island in the kitchen is an old cakestand that belonged to my grandmother, with an orange cake from Red Truck Bakery. In the background is our kitchen tree, this one is decorated with candy canes. I always make an edible tree for the kitchen, we’ve used gumdrops in the past, different things like that. We like to be able to snack from the tree.”
“Gracing the Tiffany window in the stairwell is a homemade wreath with local cut greens, cloved oranges, pine cones, fruits, nuts, and osage oranges that we collect. We put wreaths in every window in the house. You won’t see a single window that doesn’t have a wreath in it. “
“This mantel is done with Elkhorn Spruce, which is growing right outside my kitchen window. It needs to be trimmed regularly, so I prune them in early December when I’m decorating so the cuts are fresh. They stay green and supple through the holiday season. I also used holly cut from the yard.”
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HOME CHRISTMAS TREES AT ELWAY
“I won’t buy a tree that’s been pruned or preshaped. I also don’t like trees that are so full there’s no room for ornaments. I buy the see-through, old world type of tree. There’s a type of douglas fir that looks like the old-fashioned trees that you’d see in Germany, real spindly, you can see through the branches, they’re sort of a Charlie Brown tree so the ornaments can hang down inside the tree instead of laying on top of the branches. I also put the lights all the way in to the trunk to create depth. I get my trees at Buckland Market, they’ll get some special trees they know we’ll like and put them aside for us every year. Our formal tree (pictured on the following page) is in the music room, and that’s primarily hand-blown Bavarian glass ornaments, some are as old as the turn of the last century. A lot of them are Christopher Radko ornaments. He makes ornaments in the traditional way they were made historically. Our less formal tree (pictured on the next spread, right) is in the family room, where we spend a lot of time. We use a lot of reds and oranges and yellows, to complement our furniture and draperies. The ornaments in here have a more homespun feel, handcrafted with materials like felt, crochet, wood, paper, metal, and wool. I’ve got ornaments that I made when I was a cub scout, little felt elves, rock candy ornaments, anything like that that I have from childhood…we really cherish those. Those things that have soulfulness and that heart connection to Christmases past are always kept and used on the family room tree.”
Left: “In the main foyer, I used a mixed spruce, pine, and cedar garland that I get at a stand at Gilbert’s Corner every year. I string it up all three stories of the staircase. In the Turkish urns at the foot of the stairs are boxwood and holly. We don’t do a lot of bows and frills because I think it’s all about the greens themselves and their naturalistic quality.”
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The formal tree in the music room
The informal tree in the family room
Left: Osage oranges with magnolia leaves cut from the farm. Center: A hand-blown glass ornament on the formal tree in the music room. Right: A Moravian Star of glass and metal that holds a tea light and is hung from magnolia branches
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on’t wear any dangly or sparkly earrings,” instructs Lolly Busey when she prepares visitors for Rikki’s Refuge in Orange. “The emus are five to six feet tall and can yank earrings out of your ears!” Yank, indeed! Peepers, one of the refuge’s three emus, has swiped glittery earrings and necklaces, a gold watch and a barrette from unsuspecting but adoring fans. He even snagged a shiny money clip out of a backpocket when the visitor bent over to tie his shoe. Peepers is such an adept pickpocket that he earned a chapter in a 2017 National Geographic book, Terrier Troubles and More True Stories of Animals Behaving Badly, by Candice Ransom. Ever ready to snatch, Rikki’s emus eagerly await broccoli bouquets, their favorite treat, but Peepers, quick as lightning, zeros in on sparkly, glittery objects. Peepers is right at home at Rikki’s Refuge with 1,300 other animals. It’s not just a caring home for mischievous avian pranksters. It’s also a place of affection, human and animal. Rikki’s gives lifelong care to its “residents,” many of whom no one wants. Founder and executive director Kerry Hilliard believes that no matter how many legs you have, you deserve a loving home, trust, and respect. She cites her experience 40 years ago rescuing an abandoned cat and explains, “There have been thousands, almost ten thousand, eyes like his I've looked into and helped to change from untrusting, sad, fearful, and unloved, to trusting, happy, loving, and joyful and given them a home where they are appreciated for who they are. What more can anyone want in life?” The refuge, now in its 20th year, devotes 100 of its 450 acres to animal care and the rest is left wild for farm animals and wildlife. They take in ill, disabled,
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RIKKI’S REFUGE Loving the unloved for life
Sometimes, even hard cases respond to a little affection.
BY GLENDA C. BOOTH PHOTOS BY DOUGLAS GRAHAM
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BY GLENDA BOOTH
A variety of about 1,300 animals have their home at Rikki’s Refuge
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injured, abandoned, homeless, and abused domestic and farm animals, now up to 22 species, like dogs, cats, cows, horses, pigs, rabbits, ducks, geese, emus, goats, turkeys, peacocks, and more. There are “neighborhoods” with names like Feline Fields, Doggy Downs, Piggy Paradise, Horsey Haven, Chicken City, Ducky Digs, Goosey Gardens, Ramsey Residence, Capri Corners, Pigeon Palace, and areas “designed just for the happiness and comfort of their residents,” explains Lolly Busey, director of administration. When visitors arrive, a friendly menagerie immediately gathers. And all around are cats wandering, chickens strolling, roosters strutting, ducks and geese waddling, goats nudging visitors’ thighs, and turkeys and peacocks spreading their multi-colored, tail feather display. “You can’t go anywhere without animal interaction. The animals always have the right of way,” advises Busey, a vegetarian and avid animal lover. The main yard is a constant, discordant symphony of quacks, honks, coos, brays, clucks, gobbles, barks, meows, caws, bleats, moos, neighs, and some difficult-to-identify sounds. Think you hear screaming woman? It’s the peacocks’ normal call. Some are curious about their human visitors; some not, but many clearly associate noisy vehicles rolling in and the bipeds that emerge with the chance to land a tasty snack. The savvy supplicants sniff and beg gently for handouts. Busey urges visitors to bring treats — bird seed, apples, grapes, carrots, celery, sweet potatoes, fruit, watermelon, berries, and of course, broccoli bouquets. Some parts of the farm are picture perfect pastoral scenes, like the cows dawdling about in a pasture, grazing. “They are gentle giants,” Busey says. “We got four off a veal truck.” In other words, these hapless bovines were rescued from a truck headed to the slaughterhouse and volunteers brought them to the farm and bottle fed them to adulthood. The Rabbit Rotunda no longer houses rabbits but is home to ducks and peacocks that cannot fly. Most peacocks are confined up to age two because of their instinctively aggressive behavior, but then they “graduate” to roam free and strut their stuff. And strut they do, obliging new human faces by unfolding their tail feathers like an elaborate
FARM LIFE lady’s fan. When people visit the pasture, the goats scramble up on their hind legs and plunk their front feet on the fence, hoping for a treat. Few hapless humans can resist their plaintive doe eyes and gentle ways. Not only do the animals comfort their caregivers and guests, they comfort each other. Take the example of the devoted “couple,” Bub and Goose, who loll around the pasture, always together. Bub is a forlorn-looking, arthritic donkey in his 40s who lost his mate, BeeBee. “He was devastated and we were terribly worried that he would not make it he was so brokenhearted,” recounts Busey. Then, a Canada goose that they named Goose, flew into Bub's pasture without a mate. Somehow, an unlikely friendship was born and now they are an inseparable pair. Goose even preens raggedy Bub. They were featured in a National Geographic book titled 125 True Stories of Amazing Animal Friendships published in May. HOW DO THEY GET TO RIKKI’S?
The path to Rikki’s is varied. Many critters come from local animal control officers
who get calls about apparently unowned, neglected, or abused animals. Madison, a horse, arrived in 2016 with one bad eye and only a few teeth. He was a scraggly skin-and-bones shadow of himself. A staffer nursed him back to health and now he’s content. Some animals are there because their owners tire of them. Well-meaning people buy pot-bellied pigs when the piglets are small and cute, but when they grow up, owners are overwhelmed and have to face the reality of owning a 200-pound swine. Easter chicks and ducklings pluck people’s spring heartstrings, but then they grow up, the fancy fades, and families cannot care for them. Some goats came to Rikki’s when a woman’s parents died and she had to downsize the family farm. Peepers and his two emu pals were the subject of a well-intended but naïve classroom project. Youngsters hatched and raised the emus, but at just a few months old, the birds were several feet tall, beyond the teacher’s and students’ management capabilities. Rikki’s welcomed them.
Some owners learn too late that they are allergic to their pets. Some animals come from petting zoos. Some felines are brought from colony cat trappers. WHO GETS “ADMITTED”?
Several factors determine whether Rikki’s accepts an animal. Space appropriate to an animal’s needs is a key consideration. And if the animal has an injury or disability, staffers must have the expertise to care for the animal. Some animals require special care that typical pet owners cannot provide. As many cats and dogs age, they become disabled or develop chronic illnesses and require more care. Cats are overwhelmingly the animal most in need of homes, says Busey, and Rikki’s typically has 500 to 600 cats, so many requests for “admission” that the caregivers have to limit cats to those needing specialty care. One of the most common cat diseases at the sanctuary is feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), which typically causes a weakening of the cat's immune system and is related to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). The second is feline leukemia virus,
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FARM LIFE a contagious disease which requires special and maintain housing and to care for evEXT:png:END EXTnot take cats eryone every day,” explains Busey. “And houses. Many sanctuaries will with FIV or felineEXT:png:END leukemia. just as important, we love and treat them EXT All cats are spayed, neutered and inocu- all as beloved family, no matter what.” The Hoffman Lanethat few lated for rabies. All cats have houses and farm 16033 providesIracare for animals Hoffman VAIra 22701 outside play space with real trees, fake trees, peopleCulpeper, want16033 and the caring goes toLane the end EXT:png:END EXT and play furniture. “Our cats have their own of life.kmlawngardenarborist.com “That is what sets Rikki's Refuge Culpeper, VA 22701 apartment complex,” Busey chuckles. Some apart from most other animal organizakmlawngardenarborist.com (540) 825-8371 of the feral cats never socialize to humans 16033 tions,” Ira boasts Busey. Lane Hoffman and are confined in large cage-like structures. A CARING (540) START825-8371 Culpeper, VA 22701 Some animals don’t fit the typical, AmerThe sanctuary was started in 1998 by the ican cute-and-cuddly pet persona. Rikki’s kmlawngardenarborist.com family of a deceased Balinese cat to honor has a three-legged dog and a goat that hob- (540) their beloved pet, Rikki. Kerry Hilliard, 825-8371 bles about determinedly because his back founder and current director, did cat rescue legs are splayed. Milo, another goat, has and fell in love with the property. one horn. “He’s our unicorn,” Busey quips. The farm has eight staffers. Local Girl These are the differently abled. Scouts help out, for example, making colWhat makes Rikki's Refuge stand out orful picture boards that add cheer. College is that it offers lifelong homes and care for students have special projects like painting able and disabled animals that otherwise the fence colorful hues of bright colors. would likely die. “We are absolutely noPeople can adopt animals from Rikki’s, EXT:png:END EXT kill,” explains Busey. Animals that die at but Busey cautions, “Though we always Rikki’s are buried in the farm’s cemetery. hope our animals will be chosen for adop16033 Ira Hoffman Lane “We are blessed to have the land, the tion wonderful homes, we know that Culpeper, VA to 22701 volunteers and the staff to help us build most people want the cute, young, healthy, kmlawngardenarborist.com
and perfect ones, not the kind that we are here to help and provide life care for.” So it takes an extra-special, nurturing attitude to adopt an animal from Rikki’s. For those that no one wants, they have a home for life at Rikki’s. Amid the cackles, gobbles, mews and coos, through heat and cold, rain and drought, blue skies and gray, why does Busey give most of her time to this motley gaggle of critters? “Here the animals are loved and cherished. Here they thrive,” she stresses. “They know they are safe here. It makes me happy.” SUPPORTING RIKKI’S
Rikki's Refuge offers tours on most Sundays and holidays. Reservations are required. Email Tours@RikkisRefuge.org. The refuge is nonprofit and welcomes donations, financial and otherwise. The farm can use items like cat food (dry and canned), horse feed, blankets, cat trees, bleach, paper towels, trash bags, sweet feed (livestock), cracked corn, children’s playground equipment and more.
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An Artistic Relationship is Anchored in Stone A painter and a sculptor merge their visions to create monuments of beauty. BY ANNE N. EDWARDS
COURTESY OF CHRIS STEPHENS (L); BY DOUGLAS GRAHAM (R)
ost people travel in the summer to visit relatives, enjoy a change of scenery, or simply to get away from it all and do nothing. They do not usually venture to a quarry in the Midwest and return home with thousands of pounds of Indiana limestone. On a warm July morning, sitting inside Andrew Haley’s well-known Sperryville gallery, Haley Fine Art, Gary Colson and Chris Stephens seemed more like ebullient school boys than the serious artists that they are. As sunlight poured down on one of their palecolored limestone sculptures placed prominently in the gallery’s side yard, the artists talked enthusiastically about their recent road trip to Indiana. No, they did not head west from Virginia’s Piedmont, where they both
reside and work, on an extended camping adventure. Rather, they set off to procure a truckload of limestone from one of Indiana’s largest quarries. For the non-geologists among us, the middle of what is now the United States was covered for centuries by water. This fact accounts for the stratified rock beds of the relatively soft stone located in the Midwest. Though limestone is, perhaps, easier to carve than granite or marble, it also is extremely durable. The artists took a tiny detour while in Bloomington, Ind., to tour a local cemetery. Here they observed that the grave markers made of limestone were in better shape, showing less deterioration, than those made of marble. Many noteworthy buildings in Washington, D.C., like the National Cathedral, are constructed of limestone, and even with PIEDMONTVIRGINIAN.COM |
Chris Stephens, left, and Gary Colson spend much time in their workspace sharing their artistic visions of what’s inside the stones and how they can collaboratively bring out the stories the stones have to tell.
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ART the earthquake that struck a few years back have withstood the test of time. The artists are mindful that like all natural resources, limestone will not be plentiful forever. They estimate that the large band of limestone in Indiana where their stone was quarried is about 10 miles wide by 30 miles long. They were told that the area will probably yield stone for another 100 years; and while they likely won’t be around then, they seem to mourn the fact that future generations of builders and sculptors may not have the opportunity to construct and create with limestone. The easy, warm rapport between Colson and Stephens would lead you to think these artists have been friends and collaborators since childhood. But that is not the case. What they do share, however, is an attachment to art that has existed for most of their lives. Colson, who grew up in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, remembers his father returning home from business trips with pockets full of memo pads. These he gifted to his son and Colson filled them with sketches that he stored in a toy box. Also, he remembers the original works of art that decorated the walls of his family’s house and being allowed to run his finger over their painted designs. Having spent his formative years in Raleigh, N.C., Stephens says that he, like Colson, has been drawing and looking at art since he can remember. Both men made art their major in college and went on to receive graduate degrees in art. Colson has been a high school art instructor in the Fauquier County public schools for 27 years. Stephens has taught art in a variety of public schools, as well, and now devotes most of his time to producing art. Their creative paths first crossed in 1994 when they were both teaching at the Governor’s School, a summer program for gifted and talented high school students, which was then at the University of Richmond. Colson was employed to teach the students to think three-dimensionally, while Stephens taught painting. With his own work, Stephens continues to focus on painting. However, once Colson put a chisel in Stephens’ hands, he was drawn to the medium and relishes the collaborative bond 42 PIEDMONTVIRGINIAN.COM |
that has grown between them. “Usually art is such a solitary thing,” Stephens comments, “but working alongside someone else pulls you out of yourself.” When sculpting with another artist, he adds, “You have to accept somebody is going to mark over what you have done.” The sculptural work that stands outside Haley Fine Art is typical of the designs that Colson and Stephens create. They are normally abstract and have a linear thrust.
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Because of their verticality, some viewers might imagine a human form emerging from the work, but this seems far-fetched. Primarily, the sculptures reveal a respect for the raw material. Colson comments that the tools one uses to carve limestone are beautiful—much finer than those required to hack away on granite. He seems to revere the tools he owns and uses daily. Taking a close look at one of their sculptures and the distinctive marks etched on the
stone’s surface, one is reminded of aboriginal art. There is a slight primitivism to the marks, but at the same time an assured authenticity. Some people—other artists—have referred to their sculptured works as “poetry.” The sculptors are dependent on commissions, which Haley Fine Art is skillful in securing. Acting as both dealer and critic, Haley advises these artists to focus not only on the actual carving and the different textural patterns they are able to impart to
the limestone, but also on the three-dimensionality of each completed piece. A crane was on hand to unload this recent haul of limestone in Colson’s backyard in Culpeper. Three massive blocks of stone were lowered to the ground, and suddenly the challenge that lies ahead of these artists to transform the lifeless limestone into works with visual interest and vitality seems daunting, to say the least. There is no strict division of labor in the
Clockwise from top left, Colson and Stephens size by hand what will become their sculptures from the three huge blocks of newly acquired Indiana limestone. Colson’s stone saw helps carve out the initial shape. Tools of the sculptors’ trade stand ready in the artists’ design studio amid mockups of sculptural ideas that are works of art in themselves. TOP & RIGHT: BY DOUGLAS GRAHAM BOTTOM LEFT: BY GUS EDWARDS
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BY GUS EDWARDS
collaboration. The inspiration for their early sculptures came from Stephens’ abstract paintings, which Colson says made him want “to take the two dimensional into the three dimensional.” But Colson and Stevens will start off slowly. Together, they might take a big black marker to the stone blocks to help them decide which areas to reduce and carve away. Also, they will craft small models in clay to help them visualize a completed work. Both will sculpt but, Colson smiled, “I’m the stone guy, but we’ve worked together so long now I can make Chrislike decisions.” Unlike their earlier works, in which blocks of limestone were artfully stacked one on top of another with a metal rod linking them together securely, their newer pieces probably will prove to be more monumental and solid in scale. Colson comments that sculpture is a subtractive art and that an art professor once advised him not to be afraid of making mistakes: “‘There is plenty of stone there,’ he would say. ‘Plenty of stone.’” Just inside the entrance to the converted garage that serves as Colson’s studio hangs a black-and-white photograph. Purchased in Italy, it depicts not a completed, perfect statue created by the great Florentine master, Michelangelo, but a rudimentary study he sculpted for a larger piece. It is easy to tell that the this photograph inspires Colson—he keeps it tacked to the wall as a reminder that even the greatest of the greats had to start somewhere: with one chisel mark, then another...
Colson is deft with a pneumatic chisel, a tool Michelangelo might have envied, as he etches finer details on a new piece. | AUTUMN 2018/WINTER 2019
TREASURE IN OUR BACKYARD:
THE NATIONAL SPORTING LIBRARY & MUSEUM The unique institution offers a wealth of sporting art and education.
BY LAURA GRESHAM CLARK PHOTOS BY DOUGLAS GRAHAM
“Civil War Cavalry Horse,” 1997. Tessa Pullan, Sculptor. The iconic sculpture of a dejected horse on the lawn of the NSLM is a tribute to the 1.5 million Confederate and Union Army horses and mules who were killed, wounded, or died during the Civil War. PIEDMONTVIRGINIAN.COM |
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or years, I passed by the pristine property on six acres at the corner of West Washington Street and The Plains Road in Middleburg. I wondered about the prominently displayed bronze horse sculpture, its head hanging low and its stance, dejected. I watched as the site evolved, adding and enhancing buildings. I knew that it was the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM), but somehow I was under the impression that it was exclusive to serious equestrians. That assumption could not have been more wrong, and it led me to miss out on one of the most impressive resources in our region. Looking into the museum was a game-changer, and now I’ve not only been to NSLM, I’m a member. Dedicated to preserving, promoting, and sharing the literature, art, and culture of equestrian, angling, and field sports, NSLM houses an astounding collection of more than 26,000 books and over 1,200 art objects. Its primary components are a library and a museum. Each one merits separate but equal attention and praise. The library is filled to the brim with resources for serious scholars and casual visitors alike. George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Head Librarian, John Connolly, is the right person for the job. His mastery of every item under his charge is remarkable, and he discusses his responsibility with appropriate gravitas and depth. He still appreciates a lighthearted take on the library’s mission, however. He explains, “If it’s a sport from a Jane Austen novel, we’ve got it right here.” He’s referring to the fact that the library’s collections include, but are not limited to, works related to general riding, horse breeding, foxhunting, steeplechasing, polo, fly fishing, carriage driving, falconry, and wing shooting. From its inception, the library welcomed the community, and that spirit remains a hallmark of the institution today. In 1954, George L. Ohrstrom, Sr., and co-founders, Alexander Mackay-Smith, Lester Karow, and Fletcher Harper wanted to start a library that was accessible to all. At the time, the only sporting libraries in the United States were in Keeneland, Ky., and The Jockey Club in Lexington, Ky. and New York City, both of which required rigorous academic credentials for admission. In its earliest days, the library was located in a small house across from what is now Safeway in Middleburg. It later moved to its current location at Vine Hill, a Federal home built in 1804. A donation of 5,000 volumes by John H. Daniels in the 1990s necessitated an expansion, and the stunning new library opened next to Vine Hill in 1999. Attracting locals as well as tourists from around the world, the library is designed to feel warm and inviting. Its décor is evocative of a well appointed home. In addition to the thousands of titles gracing its stacks, there are magazines, periodicals, archival collections, 46 PIEDMONTVIRGINIAN.COM |
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Left: “Still Water,” 2011 Nic FiddianGreen (English, c. 1963) Hammered lead with copper rivets on oak base. 122 inches. Top: “Gallop,” 2009 Clarice Smith (American, b.1933) oil with gold and copper leaf on canvas, on 5-panel screen 50 x 771/2” Gift of Clarice Smith, 2015
photographs, letters, manuscripts, and hunt diaries. Additionally, more than 7,000 books line the shelves of the temperature and humidity controlled F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room. Gleaming trophies take up residence at the library all year except when they leave briefly to be awarded and engraved for annual sporting contests. The unexpected collection of weathervanes assembled by the late Paul Mellon of Upperville lends an amusing touch. The library’s status as a research institution prohibits checking materials out, but anyone can spend time in the comfortable rooms reading, studying, and learning. Throughout its existence, the library was also home to many works of art. So many, in fact, that it ultimately became evident that they needed their own building. Vine Hill was the ideal location, and following a significant renovation and expansion, the Museum opened its doors in 2011. The property has since been known as the National Sporting Library & Museum. Inside the walls of the museum are paintings, sculptures, works on paper, and decorative arts from the 1600s though today. The objects reflect a passion for the same country pursuits as the library, including images of landscapes, portraits, sporting events, and
animals. With strong representation of both American and British works, much of the collection celebrates all things equestrian. One room after another offers delightful surprises. A dramatic, 122” horse head sculpture greets visitors as they enter. An English sterling silver model of a horsedrawn carriage is the largest of its kind. A magnificent oil painting from 1878 depicts foxhounds and a terrier enjoying a moment of rest in a kennel. No detail is too small for Claudia Pfeiffer, the Museum’s George L. Ohstrom, Jr. Curator of Art, to commit to memory, and her respect for and knowledge of each artist and each work is incredible. A tour with Pfeiffer or one of the museum educators is a not-to-be-missed experience. On NSLM’s manicured grounds, sculptures of horses and foxes dot the landscape. Some are whimsical, like the little foal nipping its hindquarters, aptly named “Darn That Itch.” Another is somber. The dejected horse mentioned at the top of this article is a tribute to the 1.5 million Confederate and Union Army horses and mules who were killed, wounded, or died from disease during the Civil War. The sculpture, commissioned by Mellon, is of an exhausted horse, reminiscent of a horse’s condition in the tragic aftermath of battle.
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SPORTING ART Adding to the museum’s permanent collection are exhibitions of art on loan from prestigious institutions. Previous shows have included photography, ancient Greek art, British engravings, fly fishing, and gun dogs. Most recently, Mellon’s revered collection of British sporting art from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond has been on display. Up next is “Sidesaddle, 1690-1935” from September of 2018 through March of 2019. The combined staff of the library and museum is relatively modest for a world-class institution, with about 10 full-time and six part-time employees. That makes it even more impressive that they have the time and energy not only to curate and manage the collections, but also to hold a wide array of events and programs throughout the year. This aspect of the NSLM is critical for maintaining the long tradition of community appreciation and involvement. One look at the busy event calendar, and it’s obvious that NSLM offers something for the entire family. Best of all, many programs and events are free. There are gallery talks every Wednesday, giving attendees a personalized peek at traveling exhibitions, new acquisitions, or permanent collection pieces. Art programs allow aspiring artists young and old to create in inspi-
rational environments. Lectures take a deep dive into fascinating topics. Academic tours welcome public, private, and homeschool groups from pre-k through post-graduate and adult learning. Book readings and signings engage authors and audiences. And the Open Late concert series brings music and fun on the last Friday of the month, May through August. In 2017,
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Left: The library’s status as a research institution prohibits checking materials out, but anyone can spend time in the comfortable rooms reading, studying, and learning. Above: Vine Hill, a Federal home built in 1804, houses the NSLM. A donation of 5,000 volumes by John H. Daniels in the 1990s necessitated an expansion, and the stunning new library, located behind the older building, opened in 1999.
more than 1,000 people enjoyed these special outdoor evenings, where picnicking is permitted. This year’s series has seen even greater numbers. Each September, NSLM holds the Polo Classic at Great Meadow in The Plains. Last year, 950 guests watched two matches featuring acclaimed polo players from near and far. This event is a key fundraiser for NSLM, with proceeds from ticket sales going towards exhibitions, educational programs, preservation of collections, and more. While NSLM is inclusive in almost all that it does, there is one important program that is exclusive. Since 2007, NSLM has hosted the John H. Daniels fellowship program. Postgraduate students, professionals, scholars, and authors from around the world come to NSLM and live in a cottage on the property. Just one fellow participates at a time, and during the stay, each takes full advantage of NSLM resources for further study across a wide variety of sporting topics. Bringing so many resources, events, and programs to a large audience requires a significant annual budget. NSLM is extremely grateful for the support it receives. The majority of items that are now part of NSLM came through gifts from private collections, and much of the library’s income comes from membership fees. There
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SPORTING ART are different levels of membership, with individual fees starting at just $50. Members enjoy benefits including unlimited free admission to the museum; discounts on events, lectures, and educational programs; invitations to members-only receptions; research assistance; and a tour of the Rare Book Room. For many, the Rare Book Room tour alone is worth the price of membership. Visitors get an up close and personal look at fore-edge books that seem ordinary until they reveal intricate hidden paintings on their edges. Theodore Roosevelt’s handwritten original manuscript, “Riding to Hounds on Long Island,” complete with corrective notes, is part of the collection. And well-loved historic volumes sit on the shelf waiting for repair. When someone “adopts” one of them to restore, NSLM places a dedication plate on the inside front cover. So it is that NSLM, an internationally renowned institution, sits nestled on a serene piece of land in the quaint town of Middleburg. It’s a gem, and one that everyone can and should enjoy. Connolly mentioned that attendance saw an uptick while Downton Abbey aired. That struck me as funny at first, but then I saw
that visiting NSLM truly is like stepping onto the set of a lush and engrossing period piece. It’s a chance to immerse oneself in refined words and art, to feed the intellect, to escape the everyday, and to leave one’s cares behind. In comparison to the hectic pace of life in 2018, that’s a horse of an entirely different color.
“Sea Hero” Rokeby Stables Tessa Pullan, Sculptor 1995
HOURS OF OPERATION: Wednesday-Sunday, 10:00-5:00 LIBRARY ADMISSION: Free MUSEUM ADMISSION: Free to members and children 12 & under; Adults, $10; Seniors 65+ and Youth, 13-18 $8. Note: The Museum is free on Wednesdays and on the last Sunday of every month. ADDRESS: 102 The Plains Rd., Middleburg, VA PHONE: 540-687-6542 WEBSITE: nationalsporting.org
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Learning to Be a Dog For this pup, a new life grew out of a hopeless situation STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY ED FELKER
roaring fire fought back the dark chill of late November in rural central Virginia. The surrounding woods, quiet most of the year, echoed with laughter as friends talked strategy, traded insults, and passed bottles. This is Deer Camp. And the men stoking the fire have been coming to this spot on opening weekend of rifle season for years. Each fall, one or two new faces are added, and old friends sometimes miss it (acceptable reasons are the birth of a child and… actually I think that is the only one). On this night, as the last stragglers worked their way back to camp from tree stands deep in the woods, an unexpected visitor arrived. Trotting up the driveway with cool confidence like he owned the place, drawn by the light and laughter and the aroma of grilling meat, was a Beagle. He wore a collar but no tags. Black and brown and white, with ears slightly too big for his head, he was a typical Beagle. In these parts, there are clubs that hunt deer with dogs, and the season for dogs opened the same weekend. But the nearest club used Walkers, not Beagles, and all those dogs wore GPS collars. He seemed fed and cared for and, apart from one noticeable malady – he was one eye short of a complete set – he seemed in good health. The group assumed he knew both where he was and where he lived and preferred the former at the moment. He ate table scraps, drank fresh water, mingled with the other dogs in camp and spent the night in the warm cabin. The next morning, in the rush of tents and tables being broken down and trash being picked up, he wandered off the way he came, and was gone. A year passed and again on opening weekend, pickups rolled into camp. That first night was quiet with many of the group scheduled to arrive early the next morning. But still there was a fire, of course, and it was stoked until sparks rose to the tops of the trees surrounding the clearing. As the small group gathered in the glow, they were visited again. The one-eyed Beagle, in no perceptible hurry, walked up the driveway and past the cabin. He took
his place in the circle of men and sat facing the fire, as if to say, “Has it been a year already?” Like the rest of the hunters, he ate, drank and snored for two days. Then, just as before, he wandered off unnoticed on Sunday, lost in the bustle of packing. By the third year, the arrival of their curious friend was fully expected. And when he sauntered up the drive this time there was a new hunter in camp. Pete was new to the group and had heard the stories about the recurring visitor, but Pete was there to hunt, and spent every available hour of the weekend in the woods. So he didn’t give a lot of thought to the extra dog around camp begging for handouts. On the first day of the fourth year, Pete came back from hunting and the dog was already in camp. His condition was alarming. He had lost fully half his body weight from the year before and was barely recognizable. He limped so badly his back legs dragged behind him. He was utterly filthy, completely covered in fleas and ticks. He was near death. Pete gave him food and water, and wrapped the squalid dog in his warmest hunting coat at night. Sunday morning was so cold Pete woke up and couldn’t go back to sleep, so he went hunting. He was the only one in camp to make it into the woods that day, and was rewarded with the biggest buck of his life. There were lots of words not being said as the guys packed up that afternoon. Whoever was originally taking care of this dog was clearly no longer doing so. And while it was remarkable that he had survived in woods thick with coyotes and other perils this long on his own, not one of the hunters felt he would even survive the night. Pete didn’t have the heart to let it happen. If their brief, seasonal companion was not long for this world, he thought, it could happen either with PIEDMONTVIRGINIAN.COM |
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DOGS terror in the jaws of a coyote, or with com- blood work tests and X-rays of his spine fort in the arms of a friend in a clean, warm and rear legs. He was tested for parasites, Lyme, and heartworm and had them all. vet’s office. Pete took the dog home. For three hours he drove, a trophy buck He was weak and malnourished and his in the back of the truck and a reeking bag teeth were rotten. He weighed ten pounds. of bones curled up on the passenger side The vet put his age at seven, at most. “But floor. Each time he checked to see if the a hard seven.” At home, he was given a space in an undog was still breathing Pete could see fleas finished basement room. He slept his days jumping off the dog onto his coat. away, recovering. His teeth were so bad and When he finally got a signal on the road his stomach so unaccustomed to food he he made one call to his wife, Claudia, to tell could only be given a spoonful of wet food her to prepare for their guest, and another at a time. Two weeks after Herman’s arrival, to the vet, making an appointment for first while Pete and Claudia were lying in bed thing the next morning. When the pair got they commented that the neighbor’s dog home, Claudia saw the dog and named him sure was loud that night. They looked at Herman. No discussion. Herman it was. each other in simultaneous realization that Their first priority was a bath. Their second it was Herman from the basement, who priority was another bath. Pete told the vet if Herman had to be hadn’t made a single sound since he arrived. put down he would of course pay the cost. He was finally starting to come out of it. Over the coming months his coat grew And in one last bit of due diligence to find his first owner, he was scanned for a mi- healthier, his energy increased and his percrochip. There was none. He was bombed sonality started to shine. Claudia, who for fleas and ticks before he could even be works out of their house, smiles at him all • FA R M T O TA B L E C U I S I N E examined, then was given a full battery ofE B A Rday. “I call him my co-worker,” she says • WIN
with another smile. They use words like “friendly,” “stubborn,” “funny,” “mellow,” and “perfect” to describe him, and can’t imagine not having him in their lives. At the same time he was getting healthy, Pete and Claudia had to work on training, as Herman had none. He wasn’t even housebroken. Everything from walking on a leash to the most basic obedience commands was all new to Herman. Five months after his arrival, Herman weighed 20 pounds and was healthy enough to undergo surgery. He had 14 teeth removed. “I honestly didn’t think he’d make it,” Pete says with a hint of worry on his face, recalling the transformation from near death to a thriving, fun-loving dog. “Now I feel like he’s going to live forever.” Herman now follows Pete everywhere. He loves riding shotgun in the truck, and if Pete gets out even to pump gas, Herman is there at the window, never taking his good eye off the man who saved his life.
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E S SAY
Waiting to Say Goodbye BY STEPHANIE SLEWKA
he sin-eater was lost. “This is Erik,” said a frazzled caller on the voice mail, “from Valley Proteins. I can’t find it. Call me back.” A hint of panic seeped into the last word, cracking the “a” in “back” before no-last-name Erik from the rendering company hung up without leaving his phone number. He was winding through the last of the morning mist on back roads, already late halfway into the perfect day of blue skies and emerald fields. His dump truck slammed around the bends, the chains attached to the winch leaping off the bed of the truck as he hunted for me. He had no GPS. There were two roads with almost identical names. Erik was on the wrong one. I was waiting for him at a farm to which I had given his dispatcher careful directions, and where, I had explained, there was no cell service. So even had Erik left his number, I would not have been able to call him. On a straightaway, he latched on to a 54 PIEDMONTVIRGINIAN.COM |
woman in a postal truck; she set him right and sent him on his way. The henchman’s rattle sounded a half a mile away and I walked towards my little, dark horse, faultless and sweet until the end. His delicate ankles folded together at a perfect angle, like Meghan Markle’s after she embarked on training for her new role as a duchess. Small hooves pointed down, his coronet bands were white from the morning dew, the star on his forehead still askew. There had not been a quiver since the vet stood up over his velvet form and folded his stethoscope. “After you lay the horse down, make sure you don’t put a tarp on ’em, that’ll cook him in this heat,” the dispatcher had said with a warning chuckle when I called to make the arrangements. That’s an image the mind’s eye does not like to conjure. “OK,” I agreed. “Then what do I do?” The dispatcher slid into the singsong of tour guides and touts who repeat the same phrase so often it takes on the pitterpatter of a prayer and the drone of a whine. “You take a jar with a lid and you weigh it down,” he paused to make sure I now understood the notion of gravity perhaps because I had not reacted to his earlier attempt at levity. Then to make sure, or because it’s alright to talk down to women in Trump’s Virginia, he added “so, you weigh it down with rock or gravel.” “Put your check inside the jar and close the lid and leave it near the animal,” he intoned. “The driver will pick up the horse, take the check and leave the receipt in the jar,” he ended with a flourish. “Wait,” I croaked. “People put their horse down and leave it on the side of the road and just walk away?” I asked, incredulous. “Yes, ma’am, that’s how we do it,” he explained, now folksy. “The driver will take care of everything.” I was struck dumb at the thought of abandoning a creature to, I don’t know, have lunch, while he was settling into the earth. What if dogs came, or foxes, or if people passing by stopped and stared? Who drops their pet on the road like an orange peel? “Do you understand or do I need to go over it again,” asked the dispatcher, now impatient. “No, I got it,” I replied. He sounded dubious. “Can you tell me what
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time the driver might come?” “Sometime after one, more than that I can’t tell ya,” he replied. “A window, you know, from 1 to 5, say?” I pleaded. “Can’t tell ya,” he answered again, relishing the ability to say no. “Mondays are busy.” “Approximately,” I beg? “No,” he replied, enjoying himself. I imagined him in an office in a blue Dickies shirt and pants that smelled of rendering, no matter how often or how hard they were laundered, and forgave him. I hung up. The jar wedged in my imagination like a swivel door lined with books whose spines shine with gold letters in the library of a make believe castle. The solution, the go-between from this life to the next is a jar on the side of the road? And if the jar is empty, or blown away, the ferryman not paid, does the driver heave himself back into the cab of his monstrous hearse and rumble off leaving
a thousand pounds of horse? I wondered about this driver. Who is this guy who hunts for the dead with no directions and shows up, alone, to do the work of removing the carcass of an animal that an hour ago was magnificent, that was loved and left? This death of an animal, is it so odious that no one can stand and wait for the undertaker? Or is it what the animal will become? Who is this man who will take my heart away? Is he so tainted that he can’t be met, face-to-face? He is the one who eats our shame. Of we the people who make animals do things for our pleasure, we who mutated this horse’s airway so he’d run faster and succeeded in slowly strangling him. My mind scanned its store of images for the right receptacle in which to stuff, as instructed, my money in exchange for
the absolution of guilt for handing this lovely horse his death sentence. Glass wouldn’t do; glass and horse hooves don’t mix, if the horse steps on the jar and breaks off a shard it is hurt. Of course, the horse won’t be alive but I can’t think that way just yet. A coffee can could work: one of those yellow things with a plastic lid. They’re ugly. Strike that thought. The vet, so often late, sometimes by hours, was early. We were ready, or at least at the ready. The little fellow, unsteady on his legs the previous afternoon, unable to summon the power to propel his rear end, had, with the help of painkillers and in the cool rain of the night, regained some of his racehorse fire. Though I was pleased for him, it fanned the spark of doubt that nags when you play God with another’s life. Tossing his head and lifting his front feet off the ground, he jigged to the barn. When
he first came to me from the track seven months earlier, he rocketed to breakfast at a gallop, tearing through the field to skid to a stop at the threshold of the barn and rise in an elegant rear. Like Zorro, I told my kid, only to realize neither she nor any of her friends had any idea who Zorro was, obliterated by time and usurped by other Disney characters. He wasn’t hungry. When they’re in training, most racehorses don’t have windows to the outside world. They live in a long row—the shed row—and stand twenty some hours a day with a view to the inside of the building. They see horses opposite and if they crane their neck, can spy comings and goings down the row but not the outside world. Rock loved his window and turned from his breakfast to hang his head out and gaze at the hills. Sometimes, when snared by injury or illness, horses revert to pre-domesticated ways and the approachability in their eyes is shellacked with the look of the wild. A hint of aggression gleamed in this gentle horse’s eye as we stood and stared in the same direction, he with a cocked hind leg, me with my hand over his neck. A racehorse’s lungs are crucial to his performance. The better the lungs, the better the athlete. A galloping horse can only inhale when his front hooves are extended forward. And he, or she, can only exhale when all four legs come together, squeezing the air out of the lungs. One breath for every stride, a mass of oxygen inhaled and released. Even a small defect in the airway can affect speed. When a horse breathes hard, two small cartilages that close over the larynx when he swallows open wide: the more air, the more speed. The cartilages open and close thanks to a muscle stimulated by a nerve that loops from the brain down the neck to the base of the aorta. Rock ran crazy fast but he developed a roar, a sound in his throat from a paralyzed vocal chord that did not let the flaps open cleanly. The surgery meant to fix the problem stitched one flap open all the time. It had seemed fine at the track but over the months I had him that long twisting nerve stopped working right. In winter, one nostril ran, then the other. In spring, he ahemed a few coughs that I was told were of no concern. When he ate, food came out his nose.
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FARM LIFE By the heat of summer, he developed a hack as if to clear his throat, a horrible, dinosaurlike sound, and finally he coughed so hard he couldn’t trot in a straight line. Food stuck in his trachea, entered his lungs and he developed pneumonia. Put your ear to a horse’s nostril the way you would a conch shell. The ocean’s roar is not there but the power of this vast creature is, and his soul, too. The most sorrowful sound I have heard came from a horse after he realized his pasture pal had died. The surviving horse walked up to me, put his nose to mine and released a sigh of mourning so heartfelt the hairs on my arm rose up. Rock turned his head and breathed on my face, the struggling bellows of his lungs enfolding me. Love, maybe, passed between us. I scratched him and he pinned his ears and bit me, so thin-skinned. I smacked him for good measure and left for the house. He stayed at his picture window. Who the hell bought these pickles, I asked myself as I rummaged through the recycling bin with resignation. The mouths of the canning jars lined up in the cupboard looked far narrower than I remembered, too narrow to fit the paw of the man who drives such a truck. Of course there would be no need for him to scrabble around for the check, as I would be handing it to him myself, but just in case, I needed that jar. Spicy pickles? A lot of people cycle through my house, some bringing their own supplies, but this jaunty red label of a pig in a toque holding a fork over flames didn’t seem to belong to anyone I knew. Just get on with it, I told myself. I had run out of grass at our house and moved my horses a few miles up the road to a farm belonging to generous weekenders who loved the sight and sound of grazing horses. The plan had been to bring the little racehorse home to put him down but he grew weak so fast that I did not want to move him. The vet informed me the spot I had chosen would not work, as the rendering truck needed to keep two wheels on the gravel. Doped up, the horse followed me, wobbling, to a more convenient place. Anne Boleyn, another creature enveloped in velvet, came to mind. Custom, or the king, required her to pay her executioner. Boleyn handed him the money, thanking him by necessity in advance for dispatching her in front of those who betrayed her. 56 PIEDMONTVIRGINIAN.COM |
The only practical area to drop the horse was dead in the line of sight of a camera lashed to a post in the farm’s driveway to snap photos of weekday intruders. I worried about the owner’s kids reviewing the film. But there was no choice. The vet wished me better luck with the next horse—knowing a next horse follows in the heartbreak of this one the way a casino owner knows a gambler won’t quit while he’s down unless he’s skint—and climbed in his white truck. Rock lay in the crosshairs of the lens, the electronic witness to his death. His lone mourner—me—self-conscious of the camera and annoyed for worrying what the farm owners might think. Heartless if I walk away? Drama queen if I stay?
This death of an animal, is it so odious that no one can stand and wait for the undertaker? Who is this man who will take my heart away? Never mind them, I told myself, and bent both knees in the dirt. I put my head on Rock’s shoulder and his skin rippled over his carcass like a river flowing around a bend, my weight moving his legs like water lapping at the shore. I said my piece—it wasn’t much—and stood up. With the vet early and the horse cooperative, there was time to kill before the start of the sin-eater’s arrival window of 1 p.m. to whenever. In our getting-to-knowyou-days, I had sat in the barn aisle outside the horse’s stall on a folding chair and read or napped while he sprinkled me with
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wayward kernels of grain or nibbled on my hair. I considered unfolding the chair in the driveway but waiting for death had cranked me up so taut that waiting with death required more stasis than I had the discipline to muster. Motion was imperative. I mucked around the other horses who had not a whinny of concern at the departure of their stable mate. I banged buckets and swept in violent arcs, the jagged rhythm of the broom tearing at the morning air. I looked at my phone; it was still not yet time to stand watch. I walked over to the body. Feeling stupid, I curled the check into the pickle jar and lodged the jar between Rock’s front hooves. “Sorry,” I told him sheepishly, the way you do when you abandon your kid in the front seat of a shopping cart to snatch something off a shelf in another aisle. I ran a quick errand. Upon my return I held my breath. Everything was the same. I plucked the jar from his hooves and put the check back in my pocket. It smelled of pickles. Fancy that, I snorted as I walked towards the barn. A rumble spun me on my heels. Three guys riding shotgun in a pickup truck came down the driveway. The driver had turned up not long before in the wake of a storm, going door to door offering his tree-trimming skills for the clean up. He seemed all right but he kept—and employed—uncertain company. One of them, with short teeth the color of dirty pennies, made me wary. I had spotted him close to dawn in a parking lot switching license plates on an anonymous sedan, the kind that cops drove in the nineties. Bought with cash from the cleanup, I guess. I waved an exaggerated hello as I passed—really, this was the best turnaround spot they could think of, out here near the highway? The look in his eye was not reassuring. They slowed. The trio had come to trim a big limb that snapped from its trunk. Wouldn’t take long. “Please make sure you leave the gate open when you’re done,” I asked. “Someone is coming for the horse.” As I tried to avoid their gaze and look in the middle distance my stare landed on a garbage bag slathered with duct tape where the rear window had been not long before. “Yeah, WHAT happened to him?” asked the one I wasn’t sure about, his top lip curled in a cartoon V of curiosity. “It’s a
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long story.” I bit off the words. They drove past, stopped, backed up. “We can come another day,” the driver offered, almost somber and almost gentle. “No, it’s fine,” I said. “Might as well get it done.” As promised, it was quick work. The garbage bag flapped as they lumbered off. Then the rattle of the chains sounded and neared, and Erik appeared. He hinted of Viking, and not just because of his name. With reddish hair and freckles that slid their way under the tattoos swirling about his forearms, his good looks were starting to fray. A tummy strained against the tidy uniform shirt, and it seemed there was no dental plan at his job. He was sweating. “The dispatcher drives me crazy, he can’t write directions,” he ran his hand through his hair before telling the tale of the two almost-same-name roads and the mail lady. “And these roads are bad,” he explained. “I’m real late.” He had the distressed feel of someone whose job hung in the balance. “I’ve been to Fredericksburg to pick up a horse, I got this one and then I gotta to get a cow and another horse over in Maryland.” By the clanging in the bed of the truck I assumed it was empty. “You don’t have anyone in there,” I asked. “Nah,” he replied, “I had to go back to the plant then empty (restaurant) grease traps.” Another comment that is hard to answer. “I am sorry you had a rough day. Would you like the check?” He wrote a receipt. It took forever. Maybe that would doom his job, not the driving. I folded it in half without looking at it. Erik donned his work gloves and lowered the rear ramp of the truck. I stopped looking and waited with my back turned: to each day its dose of reality. Then I thanked him and he left, directions explained and repeated and mimed. One week after Rock died, at almost the same time of day, I hit the wrong computer key while downloading video from my cell phone and erased all of the photos and videos I had of him. My little horse had vaporized as surely as the pixels that held together his likeness. No mac whiz could help. There was no grave on which to stand, no paper photograph to hold. I pressed my forehead on the table, more wooden and lifeless than Rock’s dead flank had been, and cried inconsolably.
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Musings on Bugs, Jamestown, and Squashzoo BY CARLA VERGOT
et’s talk about bugs. Next to my husband’s overplanting every bed, the bugs are what bother me most. Ricky’s biggest annoyances are my planting seedlings too far apart (i.e., adhering to the recommended spacing on the seed packet) and squirrels. But let’s get back to the bugs. I’ll be the first to admit, the animal lover in me extends to all creatures. You can imagine that the bugs, who decimate our vegetables, put me in a real pickle here. This has always been an issue for me, and not just in my garden. (You can almost feel an anecdote coming on, can’t you?) When I taught elementary school in Fairfax County, I was occasionally in the grade that took advantage of a field trip to Jamestown. The volunteers out there did an exceptional job aligning their curriculum to the standards of learning, and the students always got a lot out of it. One year, I was corralling a small group of kids to the area where the docent talked about how children their age would have had the important job of picking bugs off the tobacco plants and smashing them so the insects wouldn’t destroy the valuable crop. She proceeded to show us how to do it, then she invited us each to find and kill a bug. Now, being a teacher and a gardener, I truly appreciated this up-close and personal approach to learning—kids in a garden, getting their hands dirty. However, it occurred to me quite suddenly that I hadn’t built a foundation for this experience in advance—the difference between pests vs. beneficial insects, and why we were killing bugs to protect tobacco which we all knew was dangerous. These same kids had heard me talk about not harming living things and seen me relocate spiders from our classroom to the great outdoors because I 58 PIEDMONTVIRGINIAN.COM |
buz z z z
refused to let them be killed. And here we were about to smash bugs at Jamestown. Talk about your mixed messages. I pulled the plug on the learning experience, explaining to the docent that while it was important that my students know what their jobs would have been in Colonial times, I had not given them the background information that would allow them to synthesize it properly. To Jamestown’s surprise, my group abstained. I think about that day periodically during the summer growing season when I encounter what seems like hundreds of the dreaded squash beetles accosting our trombone zuc-
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chinis and Armenian cucumbers. They are prolific, and they pair up and woo each other in a massive orgy, doing their little dance, leaving a trail of destruction. So, I smash them. I catch them, sometimes two together, and I pinch them between my thumb and forefinger, dozens at a stretch until my fingernails are stained yellow from their bug guts. I know this all comes down to a them-or-me situation, and they will, without a fleck of guilt, damage our vines. In spite of that, I still have a tug of remorse every time I feel the crunch of an exoskeleton. I know this is one of the reasons people
We are excited to announce that our longtime columnist Carla Vergot is publishing her first book, Lily Barlow: The Mystery of Jane Dough.
And let’s not forget about the fact that the squash are prolific producers. We scaled back our trombone zucchini crop this year, because four plants produced way more than we could eat and give away. Friends pointedly requested no more gifts, so I had to catch the mailman and surprise random delivery drivers on our street in order to pass out the surplus. Once harvested, squash also lasts a long time if stored correctly. We ate our squash all winter long, and we didn’t even pretend to know how to store it. We just piled it up in the trays of the grow light and grabbed the next one when it was dinnertime. The hate part of the relationship is really limited to the bugs. They don’t seem to respond to the diatomaceous earth, a technique that has proven highly successful in keeping pests off other plants. In fact, I’m beginning to think that the dust is more like an aphrodisiac for these clowns. It’s my understanding that the bugs don’t actually kill the plants, but they damage them to the point where disease will invade. It can wipe out a thriving, vibrant squash plant overnight. We lost a black beauty zucchini in an afternoon one year, having received only two of what promised to be dozens of the gorgeous fruits. When I’m in bug-smashing mode, I usually whisper a quiet, “Sorry,” to the tiny critters. And while it never crosses Ricky’s mind again, I do consider their little ghosts every time I grate a trombone zucchini to make squash cakes in the cast iron skillet.
Lily Barlow: The Mystery of Jane Dough will be available in bookstores and on Amazon.com on December 4. Meet Carla at her book signings on December 8 at Second Chapter Books in Middleburg, or December 9 at the Four Seasons Bookstore in Shepherdstown, WV. Books must be purchased at the book signings.
BY B. CASKIE PHOTOGRAPHY
resort to chemicals to control pests in lawns and gardens. But with both methods, mechanical and chemical, you’re still killing something. When you pluck it and smash it, though, it becomes very real and even a little distasteful. When you employ the chemical spray, you’ve basically hired a hit man to do your dirty work. Sure, you paid the price, but you can convince yourself that there’s no blood on your hands. Once in that state of denial, it’s also very easy to ignore what the chemicals are doing to your body and the environment. Managing the bugs without chemicals is just one part of the tricky love-hate relationship Ricky and I have with squash. We love them for many reasons. First, the seeds are so willing they can be directly sown in the dirt. They don’t need to be started indoors months earlier, in fact, they laugh at you for wasting your time. When they germinate, they burst from the ground with a vigorous fanfare that’s such a pleasure to watch. They remind me of the relentless Kudzoo that some people claim grows a foot a day down North Carolina way. Our squashzoo comes in a close second. Their leaves are broad and lush, developing into extravagant bushes or vining over an archway Ricky built from a section of cow fence. Under the arch in mid-summer is a sweet shady place. The dark yellow blossoms are dramatic, and if you take the trouble to prepare them, delicious. The deep throats of the blooms amplify the buzzing of bees who play there and emerge dusty with pollen.
Lily Barlow, a quirky college student obsessed with the fictional bounty hunter Stephanie Plum, is called home from UVA to get the family bakery running after her dad’s heart attack. To maintain her independence, she rents an apartment from Miss Delphine, a spunky old woman Lily believes may be covering up a crime. Meanwhile, Lily recognizes a murder victim on a website. Oh, and Jack Turner, her best friend since kindergarten, picks now to tell her he wants to take their relationship in a different direction.
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BY ANN DI FIORE
RENASCENCE He pulled out the albums from when she was little Their only child, gone faraway, grown so fast, A summer tradition their weekends at Graves Mountain He hadn’t thought about them in a very long time And then last week he learned he had a granddaughter —it had seemed unlikely with her job, she such a serious young woman. The three of them stood in front of him now His wife Rose, her eyes bright and present, Their three-year-old in a yellow sundress His younger self, hand shielding eyes, as though blinded by good fortune And he remembered that after the photo had been taken Their daughter had pulled off her dress and her shoes, Ran shrieking with delight to plunge into the stream. Astonished, they stood there Watching her tiny pink body wiggle and splash Among the boulders and pines. This child who had come rather late in life. Happy days that had seemed to belong to the past. This afternoon when he visited he would show Rose the photo Ask if she remembered those trips To Graves Mountain Lodge How cool and fragrant the woods were How their child had swum like a trout in the mountain stream. “Do you think, “ he would muse, “Our granddaughter Annabel might want to swim, too?”
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August Ninety feet from the chestnut oak To the lichen-pocked post oak on the right, The footprint of our future home. Its picture windows centered on pasture and field, Old Rag’s bald pate, receding waves of blue. One day we will sit in comfort, Today we crouch on a log in the rain. We complain of two years lost on permits and plans But revel each time we open the gate… Buck moths mating on a tendril of wild grape, Box turtle scutes shining in the sun. We line up each treasure on a log shelf— Turkey quills, a possum jawbone, lichen-etched stones, a perfect acorn. ~ I ask the man who will excavate Not to scrape away the soil, He smiles in confusion and shakes his head. I dare not ask how deep his dozer will dig. Will it unmake the seedbed below? Will he spare the patch of crane fly orchid by the drive? We’ve roped yellow tape around mountain laurel, Lowbush blueberry, the rocks where Goat’s Rue emerged last spring, Tucked it around the Virginia pine triplets Toddlers grown to my height in the three years Since we first drove up the mountaintop in a February snowstorm. March Lurching over old ruts and new fallen wood, Finding purchase on a handful of gravel We slide into a narrow strip between free fall and excavated space. The hillside drops away To green fields,red barn, Old Rag’s familiar face, A sea of mountains beyond. Every time it pulls my breath away. ~ Months have passed since we walked away. People ask, why keep it? In three years we’ve laid down neither gravel nor roots. The picnic table continues its collapse, You’ll still find the toilet three trees west of the wellhead. In three years’ time We have planted native shrubs and trees, Though a few died from sporadic care. Carried away paintballs sprayed by the previous owner’s son. We gifted the mountain our beloved Rosie, Buried as close to grass as we could find. She wasn’t fond of rock beneath her paws. ~ We may never build on Scotts Mountain But now that our family’s bones sleep here We will welcome the swallowtails as they emerge each spring Rejoice each autumn when the sun sets the bluestem afire Witness the mountains cool from azure to indigo at dusk And daydream of tracing the sun’s rise through our picture window.
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A Legacy of Love for the Land A pair of brothers continues a family’s stewardship. BY PAULA COMBS As appeared in the Piedmont Environmental Council’s Summer 2018 Piedmont View
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PAULA COMBS, THE PIEDMONT ENVIRONMENTAL COUNCIL
istracted by an iconic red barn sitting atop picturesque rolling hills, I passed the gravel driveway I was supposed to turn down. As I found my way back, I saw the very reason I was visiting the Goodall property in Madison County. Long rows of newly planted trees nestled inside light green tubes stretched along a tributary of the Robinson River. I met with brothers Paul and Joe Goodall to discuss their family’s participation in the Headwaters Stream Initiative, a partnership program coordinated by Friends of the Rappahannock (FOR) and The Piedmont Environmental Council (PEC) to protect and restore the Rappahannock River watershed by working with landowners to plant native trees and shrubs and re-establish riparian buffers along waterways, which provide a healthy habitat for fish, wildlife, and livestock. We met at what they charmingly call the Johnson Place, one of their farmhouses. The Goodalls pay homage to each family they purchased land from by continuing to call the property by the original owner’s name. The first, still referred to as the Goodall Place, was purchased in 1906 by Paul and Joe’s grandfather. Their father later purchased the Thomas Place in the mid1930s and also the Johnson Place in the late ‘60s. All three pieces connect and come to approximately 600 acres, encompassing a variety of valuable landscape. “The diversity on the property you get to see is pretty unique. You have a huge wetland area, a tiny creek, a farm pond, rolling hills with giant boulders, and cattle pasture and flat hayfields. And then you have the Robinson River. So many different ecosystems, all on the same property,” said Bryan Hofmann, programs manager at FOR. “Dad was a very good farmer. A good
Paul Goodall (left) and Bryan Hofmann, Programs Manager for Friends of the Rappahannock.
dad, too. And he was very appreciative of the land, and kept trying to improve his agricultural practices,” said Paul. Following their father’s footsteps and wishes, the Goodall brothers have continued implementing best management practices (BMPs). Through the Headwaters Stream Initiative, an astounding 3,765 trees were planted on 16 acres, including 4,600 linear feet of stream in the spring of this year. The partnership between PEC, FOR, Culpeper Soil and Water Conservation District (CSWCD), and the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF), along with more than100 student volunteers from six schools, made this project possible. “It was, far and away, the largest singleseason planting we’ve done,” said Peter Hujik, field representative for PEC. “I enjoyed
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working with the Goodalls, and it was great to see so many students involved.” As part of a different clean water effort, the Goodalls worked with CSWCD to install a mechanical watering system for cattle and approximately 1.5 miles of fencing. The brothers are already planning for their next steps. “We are definitely going to fence off the streams on the east portion of the Thomas Place; and we’re interested in tree-planting over there, too. So, hopefully, next spring we can have a reprise of this,” said Paul. The Goodall family not only planted seeds to grow trees — literally by their own hands and shovels — but clearly a seed of love for the land was planted long ago by their father. And it continues to grow to this day.
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LIFE IN THE PIEDMONT
Mowing Is Manicuring BY TONY VANDERWARKER
f you’re a golfer, you want to play like Jordan Spieth; if you play tennis, you want to serve like Roger Federer; if you spend six hours a week on a mower, you want your lawn to look like Yankee Stadium. The field in the Bronx looks like someone mowed it with a computer, perfectly aligned rows overlaid with paths at a 90 degree angle so the field comes out looking like a Ralph Lauren-designed plaid diamond in two shades of emerald. Now, I don’t have an exotic strain of grass seed imported from Oregon or a heavy-duty commercial mower like the crew at Yankee Stadium. I get along with seed from Lowes and a Kubota, but I’ve gotten good at mowing a pleasing pattern. And I pride myself on it. There are a couple tricks to mowing a knockout lawn. First, you have to mow perfectly parallel, no swervy tracks or orphaned strips. And you need to mow to a vantage point, to a window that overlooks the lawn or a spot on the driveway where your house first comes into view. That’s how you get the WOW! factor, neat, perfectly parallel lines of two shades of grass that lead the eye right up to the house or off to the horizon. Admittedly, my lawn doesn’t look like Yankee Stadium, more like a Triple-A field, but at least 64 PIEDMONTVIRGINIAN.COM |
it gives you a degree of satisfaction after bouncing around on a mower for half a day. I like to drag my wife out to admire the painstakingly-striped vista and she grudgingly obliges, giving me a “Very nice, Tony” comment like she would to a kid showing her the crayon drawing he did in kindergarten. Okay, mowing is a guy thing. To outsiders who don’t spend a good part of their summers mowing, a mowed lawn is just a lawn that’s been mowed. But there’s an art to it. Mowing is not doing the dishes or mak-
ming the grass in corners, along walkways and around gardens at the exact height of the cut grass. Too low and it looks like the lawn’s been scalped, too high and it looks unkempt. It’s a trick I haven’t mastered. Every time I take out the weed whacker, I find I can’t hold it steady enough and end up with it bouncing up and down, leaving the grass looking like its been chomped on by a bunch of goats. There’s another trick to mowing masterfully--deciding how long to wait after a heavy rain. Too early and the mower
long, you get endless clumps of cut grass that you have to spend hours blowing away. A predicament in mowing is the zero-turn mower. While sitting on it makes you feel like a sultan in a sedan chair being carted around by a bunch of lackeys, it turns on a dime and if you rotate it too radically on turf that’s even slightly damp, it can easily tear up a divot the size of a handkerchief that you don’t find until you turn around and come back. Time passes quickly when you’re sitting in your sedan chair,
Mowing is not doing the dishes or making a bed. You’re not mowing a lawn, you’re grooming it. ing a bed. You’re not mowing a lawn, you’re grooming it. Peg, who mows lawns for a living, is so good at it that her lawns don’t look mowed, they look manicured. That’s why I have Peg and her crew do the weed-whacking after I mow. It’s kind of like a finish cut, trim| AUTUMN 2018/WINTER 2019
wheels bring up mud, and instead of emerald strips, you get long brown lines. Ugh! And if you’re mowing on a slope, the soggy grass can give way and your mower can start sliding, tearing up the turf and leaving a bad gash in your lawn. And if you delay cutting too
particularly since NPR is tootling away on your earmuffs, taking you to exotic locales and tutoring you on arcane subjects like the mating habits of crocodiles. So the next time you see a mowed lawn, take time to appreciate it. After all, just like the Mona Lisa, it’s a work of art.
In Rappahannock, it’s a small step from routine to Extraordinary
Rappahannock County An hour west of DC A World Apart. A treat for the eye and soul with 25% of the County in the Shenandoah National Park and another 25% in Conservation Easements. A beautiful and interesting place of rolling fields and forests, clean mountain rivers and “named” foothills.
The country life, with ancient mountains, clean water and the Milky Way twinkling above. Where artists and farmers live peacefully, calmer souls reside and children and grandchildren enjoy cows, horses, sheep, butterflies, toads, fish, and Shenandoah National Park trails, waterfalls and swimming holes!
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