a saturday outing to middleburg & three fox vineyards

Saturday, December 10: On this beautiful Saturday, Mike and I take a drive out to historic Middleburg, Virginia, a small town in Loudoun County Virginia that had 632 residents at the 2000 census.  I imagine it’s larger than that now.  It’s a week after Middleburg’s annual Christmas parade, held the first Saturday in December, so we’re hoping to see the town decked out for the holidays.

street lamp Christmas decor
street lamp Christmas decor

Leven Powell, American Revolutionary War Lieutenant Colonel and Virginia statesman, purchased the land for the town at $2.50/acre in 1763 from Joseph Chinn, a first cousin of George Washington.  He established the town in 1787.  First called “Chinn’s Crossroads,” it was later called Powell Town, until Leven Powell decided he didn’t want the town named for him.  The name was changed to Middleburgh, and later, simply Middleburg because of its location midway between the port of Alexandria and Winchester, Virginia on the Ashby Gap trading route (now Route 50) (Wikipedia: Middleburg, ,Virginia).

The Middleburg Historic District, comprising the 19th-century center of town, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

After the turn of the century, the town – sitting in the midst of rolling hills, pastures, stone fences and stately homes – became a popular destination for fox-hunting and steeple-chasing, earning it a reputation as the “Nation’s Horse and Hunt Capital” and attracting visitors from all over the country, including President John F. Kennedy (Visit Middleburg).  Today, celebrities such as Robert Duvall and Tom Selleck can sometimes be spotted here.

Middleburg is the home of the National Sporting Library & Museum, founded in 1954, which highlights the rich tradition of country pursuits. Angling, horsemanship, shooting, steeplechasing, fox-hunting, flat racing, polo, coaching and wildlife are among the subjects one can explore in the organization’s general stacks, rare book holdings, archives and art collection (Visit Middleburg).

We arrive in the town just at lunchtime, so our first order of business is to eat lunch at the The Federal Street Cafe, where I enjoy a Po’ Boy and Mike has The Left Coast, a roast turkey sandwich with creamy avocado, roasted red peppers, provolone, and spring greens served on seven grain bread.

We stroll out to Washington Street, the main street through the town, and find our first church.  When Emmanuel Episcopal Church was consecrated in 1843, it seated only 40 people.  It was enlarged in 1976 to seat 70 and then was remodeled in 1976 to accommodate a smaller organ.  It now seats 115 parishioners.

Emmanuel Episcopal Church
Emmanuel Episcopal Church

We then walk down the street to do some window shopping.

The oldest building in town, the The Red Fox Inn & Tavern, was originally established in 1728 by Joseph Chinn as Chinn’s Ordinary and is billed as the oldest continually operated inn in the U.S.

Notables who have stayed at The Red Fox Inn include President John F. Kennedy, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Ambassador Pamela Harriman, Elizabeth Taylor and the local Virginian and U.S. Senator John Warner, Joan Woodward, Paul Newman and Tom Cruise, according to the Inn’s website.

The Red Fox Inn
The Red Fox Inn

We also find the Red Horse Tavern, which seems to be in no way related to the Red Fox.

The Red Fox Inn
The Red Horse Tavern
Scruffy's Ice Cream & Coffee Parlor
Scruffy’s Ice Cream & Coffee Parlor
Santa's offerings
Santa’s offerings

Though we didn’t eat at The Upper Crust Bakery today, we’ve eaten here many times in the past.  They have, or used to have, the best ham salad croissant sandwiches ever!

The Upper Crust Bakery
The Upper Crust Bakery

Highcliffe Clothiers is an “old school” haberdashery for both men and women.

Highcliffe
Highcliffe

Middleburg United Methodist Church is a historic town church, built in 1856.

Middleburg United Methodist Church
Middleburg United Methodist Church
Middleburg United Methodist Church
Middleburg United Methodist Church

The cute shop, Middleburg Common Grounds, is one of the town’s most festively decorated establishments.

After walking up and down the main street, we decide it’s time to move on. On the way back to the car, we find this hair design place with straw angels in the window.

Hair Design
Hair Design

As we drive back toward I-66, we pass through the town of Delaplane, where we happen upon a sign for Three Fox Vineyards, a winery sitting on 50 rolling acres.  We simply must stop here for a wine tasting.

Three Fox Vineyards
Three Fox Vineyards

Holli and John Todhunter opened the vineyard in 2002.  The couple were drawn to Italy and Southern France to learn about the different types of wine.  They planted a number of grapes on 15 acres of the property: Italian varietals Sangiovese, Nebbiolo, and Pinot Grigio, as well as Viognier, the main white wine grape of the Rhone Valley. On the estate, they also grow Cabernet Franc and Merlot. Chardonnay, and Chambourcin are sourced from area growers, according to the website.

Three Fox Vineyards
Three Fox Vineyards

We can see the three foxes at the entryway.  Picnic tables and wrought iron tables dot the landscape — down by the creek, among the vines, on a hillside — but today is not a day for sitting outside.  The winery has a heated tented area where we enjoy a glass of wine after we finish our wine tasting and buy three bottles of wine (the tasting fee is waived if you buy three bottles).

Three Fox Vineyards
Three Fox Vineyards

We also buy some cheese and crackers because I can never drink wine on an empty stomach.  No matter that we just had lunch a short while ago!

Before leaving, I use the facilities at Three Fox Vineyards.  Here, I find the most festively decorated porta-potty I’ve ever seen.  It’s even heated. 🙂

Inside the porta-potty
Inside the porta-potty

Though it’s only 3:30 in the afternoon, it’s true that “It’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere!”

I’m pretty lazy after returning home.  I just can’t drink in the middle of the day!

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a november hike to mary’s rock

Sunday, November 10:  The hike from Jewell Hollow Overlook on the Skyline Drive to Mary’s Rock is about 3.5 miles each way, for a round trip of about 7 miles.  At this altitude, the leaves have mostly fallen from the trees, but it’s a stunning landscape just the same.  I adore the gnarly trunks & branches covered in lichen, the lime-green bits of moss on the ground, the orange and yellow trees in the valley below, and the cold wind whipping across the ridge.

starting out at Jewell Hollow Overlook
starting out at Jewell Hollow Overlook
naked trees at Jewell Hollow Overlook
naked trees at Jewell Hollow Overlook
a little color left on the trees in the valley
a little color left on the trees in the valley
mountains, mountains... as far as the eye can see
mountains, mountains… as far as the eye can see
naked trees
naked trees

As we hike the trail, meandering from the east side of the ridge, where it is relatively warm, to the west side, where the wind is howling and bitterly cold, we take off layers, put them back on, and take them off again.  The trail is rocky and leaf-strewn underfoot, causing ankle-turning and slipping and sliding.  It’s hard to be surefooted on this trail.

moss & acorn
moss & acorn
moss & acorn
moss & acorn
moss
moss

We meet groups of Korean hikers decked out in the latest hiking gear, the Wanderbirds from D.C, and two young hikers who have been on the Appalachian trail since mid-June, Two-Liter and Fabio; they won’t be finished their hike of the entire trail until mid-January.  Brrrr.  Two-Liter complains that it’s the rocks underfoot on the trail that are killing them.  They went through all the northern states, beginning in Maine, and they tell us people they encountered along the way promised them that in the Shenandoah, the rocks wouldn’t cause them a problem.  She rolls her eyes: “Wrong!”

Appalachian Trail walkers Fabio & Two-Liter
Appalachian Trail walkers Fabio & Two-Liter

At the Mary’s Rock summit, we encounter quite a crowd of people, and their dogs, enjoying the view in the biting wind.

at the summit: Mary's Rock
at the summit: Mary’s Rock
view from Mary's Rock
view from Mary’s Rock
the valley from Mary's Rock
the valley from Mary’s Rock
view from Mary's Rock
view from Mary’s Rock

Click on any of the photos below for a full-sized slide show.

I have dreams of hiking the Camino in northern Spain, but as my legs, knees, toes and back are aching from today’s 7 mile hike, I think I will have to get in a lot better shape in order to do 20+ miles a day, carrying a backpack, on the Camino.  Maybe I’ll put that dream on the back burner for a while.  Either that or get busy hiking longer distances to build stamina and strength.

October hikes in Virginia are always lovely, as fall color always peaks during that month, but November hikes are another treat altogether.

Chilled to the bone and sore and tired after our hike, we stop at Black Bear Bistro & Cellar in Warrenton for pizzas, wraps, beers and a warm and welcoming environment.

the bar at Black Bear Bistro in Warrenton
the bar at Black Bear Bistro in Warrenton
Black Bear Bistro
Black Bear Bistro
Black Bear Bistro
Black Bear Bistro
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apple picking at stribling orchard

Sunday, October 20: Today, we go out to Stribling Orchard in Markham, Virginia to pick some apples.  We have apple crisps and apple pies and apple butter and apple cobbler on our minds.  I guess after last weekend’s dreary and rainy Columbus Day holiday, everyone in northern Virginia has decided to get out of their houses and come here, because it’s packed with families of apple-pickers.  Oh well, so much for the peaceful, idyllic outing we envisioned.

On the way we pass this pretty little homestead.  A sign out front says “Mount Pleasant ~ Circa 1795.”

Mount Pleasant: circa 1795
Mount Pleasant: circa 1795
Mount Pleasant
Mount Pleasant
Mount Pleasant
Mount Pleasant

We pass a scary Halloween display in the town of Markham.

Yikes!
Yikes!

In the orchard, we grab a couple of apple-pickers and some bags to fill, and we head out into the orchard.  Luckily the orchard is big enough that we can get away from the madding crowds.  We spend about an hour filling up two bags with Jonathans, Granny Smiths, and Rome Beauties.

We accidentally break a couple of the rules of the orchard without realizing it.  Alex climbs the trees (forbidden!), and we actually sample one or two apples from the trees (oops!).  Oh well, after last weekend’s rain and fog, it’s a lovely day to be out in the countryside.

Click on any of the pictures below for a full-sized slide show (Stribling Orchard).

After we leave the orchard, we drive though country roads past Leeds Episcopal Church.  Leeds Parish was established in 1769 by action of the Virginia House of Burgesses and has been in continuous existence since then. The name of the new parish was taken from Leeds Castle in England, the birthplace of Lord Fairfax, whose colonial estates encompassed most of the new Church of England (Anglican) parish.  Formal ratification of the parish occurred in December of 1769, and worship services began immediately (The Episcopal Church of Leeds Parish: Our History).

Leeds Episcopal Church
Leeds Episcopal Church
Leeds Church
Leeds Church
Leeds Church
Leeds Church
Leeds Church
Leeds Church

And near the church we find some long-horn cattle.

Long-horns
Long-horns

And some matted wooly sheep.

wooly sheep
wooly sheep

And some pretty farmland with wooden fences.

pretty farmland
pretty farmland

Now, we need to get busy putting our apples to good use. 🙂

handstands & cloud-minding in sky meadows state park

Sunday, September 15:  We decide on this Sunday afternoon to go on a little outing to Sky Meadows State Park in Delaplane, Virginia.  This 1,864-acre park has scenic views, rolling pastures and woodlands on the eastern side of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The park has 7 miles of bridle trails, 17 miles of hiking trails and a trailhead for the Appalachian Trail.

the view looking over Sky Meadows
the view looking over Sky Meadows

My intention today is to spend time with family and to continue looking for people and objects interacting with clouds for the Instagram Weekend Hashtag Project #WHPmindingtheclouds.  It’s a beautiful day with a hint of fall in the air.  Sky Meadows is all rolling hills and fields of goldenrod and corn stalks.  I’d like to hang out and take a walk in quiet and solitude, but solitude is not in the cards for me today.

an old cart at Sky Meadows
an old cart at Sky Meadows

Sometimes I feel a stuck-in-time quality to my life, and today is one of those days.  I’ve been to Sky Meadows many times with my sons in various stages of their lives.   They are now 22 and 20, and they still run around doing cartwheels and handstands as they did when they were little boys, although their abilities have increased considerably.  Alex, my 22-year-old, spends hours in solitary training sessions developing control over his body and making it do things I would never aspire to or be able to do.  He is still trying to figure out what to do with his life, and much to my frustration, this process is taking longer than I think it should.  We’re encouraging him to get a certificate in personal training since he’s so obsessed with health and fitness.

Alex does a handstand on a wooden bridge
Alex does a handstand on a wooden bridge
wildflowers at Sky Meadows
wildflowers at Sky Meadows
Alex at a stile at Sky Meadows
Alex at a stile at Sky Meadows

Adam, 20, is also obsessed with health and fitness and simple living, namely permaculture, or self-sustaining, off-the-grid communities.  Permaculture has these tenets:

  • Care of the earth: Provision for all life systems to continue and multiply. This is the first principle, because without a healthy earth, humans cannot flourish.
  • Care of the people: Provision for people to access those resources necessary for their existence.
  • Return of Surplus: Reinvesting surpluses back into the system to provide for the first two ethics. This includes returning waste back into the system to recycle into usefulness. (Wikipedia: Permaculture)
    Alex & Adam
    Alex & Adam
    Sky Meadows
    Sky Meadows
    Sky Meadows State Park
    Sky Meadows State Park
    the road less traveled
    the road less traveled
    Alex does a handstand
    Adam does a handstand

    Adam has also toyed with the idea of starting a business building specialized backyard exercise equipment and involving communities in growing and sharing vegetables and then selling the excess in a farmer’s market, a kind of co-op arrangement.  His ideas are many and varied; he’s got to find out himself what will work in the real world and what won’t.

    stile
    stile
    fences at Sky Meadows
    fences at Sky Meadows
    old log cabin at Sky Meadows
    old log cabin at Sky Meadows
    corn stalks and fences
    corn stalks and fences
    an old barn  at Sky Meadows
    an old barn at Sky Meadows

Neither of my sons seem to think they need any kind of education to do these things.  This is heartbreaking to me, but as young men with ideas of their own, they don’t feel their parents have any wisdom to impart.  They will simply have to find out things the hard way.  All we can do is give them a time limit and an ultimatum, which we have now done, although many might think we’re being too generous giving them a year’s time frame to get their acts together and get out of the house.

As of last month, we had both boys sign a contract that they should start paying us rent by September 30 and that we expect them to be out of the house and self-supportive (or in school full-time) by the end of August 2014.

As I intended, I take some cloud pictures, but frankly the clouds today are not that interesting.  Here’s what I come up with.

Little do I know that the boys have other intentions for me: they want me to take pictures of them doing their gymnastics moves so that they can post the pictures on their Facebook pages.  They have some idea of starting a business involving videos of their workout moves, which I think seems to be falling by the wayside now that they realize the difficulty of creating a viable business plan and marketing this business.

Anyway, I’m roped into taking pictures of their many moves, which isn’t exactly relaxing for me and isn’t really the way I hoped to spend my rare day off.  Oh well, it makes them happy, so I do it.  After all, the first 40 years of motherhood are always the hardest. 🙂

After leaving Sky Meadows, we make a stop at Trinity Episcopal Church in Upperville, where the boys balance on the church railings and do handstands in front of the old church door.  Adam leapfrogs over stone gates and squats in the tree like a wise & serious owl.

Trinity Episcopal Church
Trinity Episcopal Church
Trinity Episcopal Church in Upperville
Trinity Episcopal Church in Upperville

Upperville is our last stop this Sunday afternoon, meaning that the weekend coming to a close and another hectic work week begins.   My weeks, and even parts of my weekends, are occupied more than I would like with running from class to class or zipping to the office to make lesson plans, mark papers and make photocopies.  Thank goodness that we have over a month off between semesters. 🙂