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Medium Dawn Felagund of the Fountain

Heritage Harvest Festival

The (Cyber) Bag of Weasels

bread and puppet

"About as much fun as a bag of weasels"...when I first saw this Irish adage, it made me think of the life of a writer: sometimes perilous, sometimes painful, certainly interesting. My paper journal has always been called "The Bag of Weasels." This is the Bag of Weasels' online home.

Heritage Harvest Festival

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yavanna earth
Bobby and I first found out about the Heritage Harvest Festival in Mother Earth News. It was a whole day of classes, vendors, and other activities related to sustainable living. It was held at Monticello, which we'd been rumbling about visiting anyway. And despite the fact that we winced in anticipation of how much it would cost--a vegetarian conference we'd been looking at earlier in the summer had been $400 per person, all-inclusive--it was cheap.

We thought my mom might be interested, so we mentioned it to her, and lo and behold, not only was she very interested, my dad was interested in it too. (I'm still thinking, "What??" even as I type this.) So the Felagund family once again packed up and headed south for the weekend.

Bobby originally had reservations for us at a Holiday Inn in Charlottesville. Ho hum. But, a few weeks later, he found Montfair Resort Farm, where for just a bit more than the Holiday Inn, we could claim a cabin in the mountains for the weekend with trails and canoeing on-site. Hot dog. We were there. As it turned out, too, it was a fortuitous change of choices because all of our normal dogsitters were unavailable for the weekend, so we had to take the boys with us. They were welcome at Montfair but would not have been at the hotel.

We left early on Friday morning. Mom and Dad came to our house for departure since we were headed west this time. Thankfully, none of our trip involved I-95S, so we didn't hit any traffic and, within forty-five minutes, were in Frederick and within sight of the mountains. We made our traditional stop at Cracker Barrel for breakfast and were in Crozet--the town we'd call home for the next few days--a few hours after that.

Here's our first scenic overlook just before reaching Montfair:


Then we went rumbling up a series of backroads to find Montfair. Despite the naturalist inclinations of Bobby, my mom, and me, my dad has never been what one would call outdoorsy. The extent of his outdoors adventures usually consists of circling the lawn once per week on his John Deere mower. He also likes his luxuries whereas, in the House of Felagund, it is not uncommon to hear uttered, "OMG I need a shower. I'm embarrassed to tell you how long it's been."

So Dad was a leeeetle out of his element at Montfair! He made us take pictures of him at the cabin because, otherwise, he said none of his friends would believe he'd been there. The first night, Mom, Bobby, and I sat out on the porch and watched Dad through the front window, sitting on the couch and slowly looking around himself with his mouth slightly open, like he couldn't quite believe he'd really agreed to come to a cabin in the mountains for the weekend to hear ponytailed people talk about using soap to kill bugs.

Here it is:


But Montfair was gorgeous--snuggled right at the base of the mountains--and certainly not rustic: They had AC (not that we needed it) and provided complimentary organic coffee and muffins. So Walden Pond it was not but still just a bit unfamiliar for Dad. (There was also no TV, which threw him for a loop.)

After we got ourselves and the Goldens settled at Montfair, we got back in the car and went to tour Monticello. Although we'd be there all day the next day, we wanted to do the proper house tour without missing out on any of the festival. Monticello was, of course, the rather extravagant home of Thomas Jefferson; he was a self-taught architect and designed it himself and messed with it across his whole life. (I recognized a few things in it from the John Adams miniseries!) He was also an avid gardener and naturalist, so he was always experimenting with growing different plants. It goes without saying that both the house and the grounds were beautiful.



TJ used to watch the construction of the University of Virginia from the south walkway with a telescope; the groundskeepers keep a hole cut out of the trees even today! You can faintly see the dome.



The vegetable garden! I had severe vegetable garden envy!


We went on a guided garden tour, which was very cool. This is a guinea bean. No, your eyes do not deceive you; I am not using a macro lens to photograph a stringbean. It is about 4 feet (1.3 m) long.


The Family Felagund:


Bobby and TJ:


TJ and I discuss the implications of Citizens United v. FEC:


After Monticello, we were all ravenous and so stopped for supper on the way home. Bobby (who is an awesome trip planner, by the way; in an earlier era, he would have made an excellent travel agent) had found a hole-in-the-wall pizza joint called Crozet Pizza, notable because--according to some sources, including Fodor's, National Geographic, and the Washington Post--they have the best pizza in the U.S.

And it was very, very good pizza. (The best in the U.S.? They are competing with Piezano's in Ocean City in my mind!) Bobby and I shared a Greek salad with amazing homemade dressing and a medium pie with onions and hot, hot jalapenos (and mushrooms on his side as well). My lips burned for about ten minutes afterward. (Jalapenos pain me badly, but I love them so much. I have no self-restraint where small rings of capsaicin-induced agony are concerned!)

We returned to the cabin, where Lancelot did not pee. Lance has a hang-up about peeing while on the leash. Alex--who spent the first eight months of his life in the apartment and never peeing while off-lead--could care less, but Lance will hold it as long as he can. He peed exactly twice while we were away and pooped once. (I know that is really canine TMI, but it's so mind-boggling that I needed to mention it.) He generally goes 24 hours between leaks if forced to pee while on the leash.

Bobby and I walked down to the pond. One of the amazing things about being far away from any signs of human life is the difference in the night. At home, we are far enough away from light pollution that, most nights, we can see the Milky Way and watch satellites skimming overhead, but then we go into the mountains, and the difference is profound. And the dark, when you shut off the lantern, is so thick and so deep, it is really an unnerving experience to stand without the accustomed sense of sight, hearing wildlife and the wind moving in the dark around you, your imagination inflating all of them into mysterious, sinister manifestations. We heard a pair of screech owls calling to each other back in the woods. We heard a patter on the water that we're pretty sure was a beaver; Bobby saw one the next morning, swimming in the pond.

Going away to places like this is not a good thing for me. It makes me want so badly to move to a place like this to live permanently. That was part of the point of moving to Manchester. But then Manchester doesn't feel like enough. I realize that there is a certain tendency to romanticize living a solitary existence (solitary except for Bobby; at this point, being with him is nearly like being alone, which I often tell him is a compliment), but I haven't felt too much loss since assuming my current hermitage as a freelancer and student, doing both from home, and do feel quite a relief of stress. I do not do well with daily-grind stresses, like traffic or rude people at Panera Bread. So cabins in the woods are a terrible temptation for me.

*sigh* Anyway, back to the trip.

Bobby and Dad had designs of unseating Mom's and my strong Uno victory from Williamsburg, and they made their first stride toward that goal on the first night. I think it was the lack of Beetle. I left Beetle under a bush at the hotel in Williamsburg; I think Bobby and Dad really may have thought that Beetle had some sort of odd influence on our luck. Bobby said to me, "We may actually have a chance of winning now that you don't have that damned beetle with you!" (I was aghast that he would talk about Beetle in such a way! As though Beetle was just any ordinary run-of-the-mill large dead insect that I found in a flower garden while on vacation.) I told him that Beetle was also with me in spirit always, but apparently, that spiritual connection went with the cell phone connection when we crossed into the mountains.

Anyway, Bobby and Dad won the Uno game.

(Now I am beginning to see why it has taken me a week to write this post! Back on-topic, Dawn!)

That night was rather chilly. And after we were all most gratefully tucked into bed, Alex decided that he needed some Mommy/Daddy time. When Alex feels insecure, he sleeps with us. (He slept with us the first night we had Lancelot home, which was rather cute.) So we had a double bed with two adults and a Golden Retriever. At least we were warm. Lance paced around throughout the night, which was not particularly appreciated, but I was so tired that I probably would have slept in a canoe out on the pond with the owls woobling and the beaver splashing around me.

The next day was the festival. We got there early and made it to the first class. (If you know my family, you know that this is an accomplishment. My sister and I were always the kids slinking into the band room on concert night while the rest of the school band was tuning and warming up, enduring needling stares from our teachers.) The first class we took was on fruit tree propagation. I've written a bit about grafting for DS, but it is a subject that I know very little about, so I learned a lot. Next was a break, so we grabbed lunch--Bobby's first of two Polyface meat meals--and then Bobby and Dad went to a cheesemaking workshop, and Mom and I went to a lecture about butterflies. I'm somewhat obsessed with butterflies and always have been. My favorite activity as a child was catching butterflies in my net, identifying them with my field guide, and then letting them go. I didn't think I'd learn much, but I did, especially about butterfly courtship. The presenter went through a very amusing and convoluted explanation of how puddling strengthens male sperm while trying not to actually say "sperm" because there was a ten-year-oldish kid in the audience. That earned her a round of applause and quite a bit of laughter.

Fittingly, after the lecture let out, Mom and I wandered over to the gardens so that she could smoke and ... watched the butterflies. Fancy that. There was a species neither of us had seen before and that I've yet to find in my books. (But I got a new one from the library today!) I made sketches in my journal; Bobby had the camera, unfortunately.

Next was Greener Options for Pest Control, which was basically IPM, something I write about a lot for DS and read about a lot because ... well, the poor garden always seems to have some bug assaulting it. The presenter was very good, and I was pretty sure I recognized his name from some references I'd used for DS, which was kind of weird/interesting/cool. Mom and I were scheduled for a woodland walk, and we missed it because we stayed too long into the questions at the end, which were not good, for all the presenter's skill in answering them. I could have spared myself the valley girl asking, "Like, squash bugs? I don't, like, want to go pick them off my plants? Isn't there something I can, like, spray that's, like, organic?" and I would have made my effing woodland walk.

While Mom and I were on the woodland walk, Bobby and Dad were supposed to go to Winter Ggardening, so Bobby and I went instead, and Mom and Dad took a much-needed break. Winter Gardening was packed--standing room only--which wasn't particularly surprising, but again, we learned a lot, and it was so worth it. We have our floating row covers and winter-hardy seeds just waiting for this next (and hopefully last!) heat wave to pass!

After that, there was just one workshop left: Edible and Medicinal Plant Walk. Mom and Dad were tuckered out and so decided to skip this one, so Bobby and I went to wait by the fish pond. And we waited. And I played with a yellowjacket that couldn't fly. And we waited some more. And people started wondering aloud. And we waited a little more and were just standing up to leave when a fellow who was not the scheduled presenter but looked like a young Walt Whitman with dreadlocks came by and said he'd heard about our predicament and would gladly lead the walk in place of the scheduled presenter. So he did. And it was the best of the many workshops/classes we attended that day. He really knew his stuff. The time slot was almost up before we even made it to the woods, and because it was a walk and not a sitting-in-rows class made it much more relaxed, and it was a lot of fun. We had agreed to meet Mom and Dad at 4 o'clock--the supposed end of the class--and didn't want to keep them waiting, so we unfortunately left right as the class was gathering acorns to learn how to identify white and red oaks. Damn.

We were all very tired but satisfied by the time the shuttle bus dropped us off at our car. It was an amazing day; we learned so much, and it is always so refreshing to be around people who share our ideals. (Granted, I spend most of my time these days around such people since I mostly leave the house to go to various farms and markets or have my once weekly lunch at Salsarita's where the owner is also a locavore environmentalist who always wants to trade ideas about how to do better at what we do.)

Bobby, our travel planner, had made a reservation for supper that night at the Ivy Inn Restaurant, a rather posh establishment in Charlottesville that he chose because their menu changes daily to include food from local farms. One farm they buy from is none other than Polyface Farm. (Polyface Farm, for the uninitiated, is owned by Joel Salatin, who is a very outspoken leader in the "beyond organic" and "farm friendly" movements. In the documentary Food Inc., the guy in the straw hat and suspenders and mechanic's shirt that says, I think, "Pete" ... yeah, that's Joel Salatin.) Bobby had already had Polyface pork for lunch, but he was intent on "trying Joel's chicken"; going to this restaurant was one of the highlights of the trip.

And omg was it delicious. It was much posher than what we usually indulge in, but it was a nice treat. And it was our treat; I think I scared our poor server a bit with my voracious, "I'll take that!!" when she brought the check!

Back at the cabin, we discovered that the wedding we'd seen set up that morning was in full swing over at the lodge, across the pond from us. There was lots of loud music (thankfully, it was music we mostly liked) and lots of whooping and hollering that was really amusing to hear. While walking the Goldens around the pond, a young fellow came down from the lodge and asked me if he could pet Alex--Bobby and Lance were a bit ahead of us by this time--and he turned out to be none other than the groom. He invited us up to the party for a beer, which we turned down only because we were both beyond stuffed from the Ivy Inn. In his excitement from getting to meet the groom, Alex pooped right in the middle of the parking lot about five minutes later, so there was the amusing sight of me trying to pick up dog poop with a stick and scurry across the parking lot to the woods without dropping it prematurely. Thankfully, Alex ingests a lot of hair, so ... Yeah, I'll leave that image to your imagination. Strings of sausage come to mind, though ...

Back at the cabin, Bobby and Dad made good on their threat to restore their record in Uno. They beat Mom and me in two consecutive games. So the score is tied once more.

Oh Beetle, where art thou?

Yeah, I know: under a bush in Williamsburg! I do wonder if Beetle is still there or if s/he has been moved or carried off. Yes, these are the things I think about.

Rain was moving in that night, so it was not a good night for stargazing, and we didn't hear any interesting critters either during our walk at the pond. Luckily, it rained overnight but left the next day clear and sunny.

The next day, we were leaving the cabin, but our trip was far from over. Before departing, Bobby and I couldn't resist a short jaunt up one of the hiking trails and a few turns around the pond in a canoe. Mom came out with us on the canoe too; Dad wanted no part of it.

A wee fellow we found on our walk:


Evidence of the beaver Bobby had seen the morning before:


The pond:





The 'gund:


Various wild animals:


A panoramic taken from the driveway of the resort:


After packing up and departing, we stopped first at the White Hall Vineyards and enjoyed a very generous wine-tasting--generous enough that Mom and I both got a little drunk. Oopsies. Before noon, too! There were at least five vineyards within five minutes of our cabin, and we just couldn't resist the temptation. Or returning home with a souvenir, or three.

After breakfast at Waffle House, we headed up to Skyline Drive, where Dad's old man park pass got us in for free to take in the scenery of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Oh, was it gorgeous! I will post a sampling of pictures here; I think Bobby took about 100. (I took some too, to be fair.)



In case you had trouble finding them on your own, Bobby is here to help.












Skyline Drive put us off in Luray. Alright, kids, who knows what Luray is famous for?

I'll give you a hint: my namesake is the lord of them ...


Luray Caverns are one of the east coast's best-known caverns, with 1.5 miles open to the public. As a lord of caves, I needed to survey my domain.


Bobby took lots of pictures at Luray as well, but I'm not going to post them because they really don't do it justice. The flash changes the color of the stone and distorts the perspective and it's just not good. Okay, I'll post one. It's not going to do it justice, but I'll post it just because this was amazing. At the start of the tour, there was a lake (in caves, I think anything bigger than a foot on a side is considered a lake) that created a rather stunning illusion. When you first approached it, you thought, "Oh, lots of stalactites. And stalagmites. *yawn*" And then you started to realize that the stalactites eerily mirrored the stalagmites below them. Hmm. And then you realized that there were no stalagmites but, rather, a pool of water so still and so clear that it created a perfect reflection of the ceiling about it.

Here is a picture that doesn't do it justice (yes, that's the third time I said that) but kind of shows what I mean:


That was, without a doubt, my favorite part of the cave, and the whole walk was amazing. I'm going to be using that photograph and the concept to write a fantasy story; I just haven't worked out the details yet.

After that, we headed home. Lancelot was relieved to pee again in his own backyard; he made a beeline as soon as we walked through the door. And I am relieved to be finished this entry; it took me about five separate sittings to write it.

This post was originally posted on Dreamwidth and, using my Felagundish Elf magic, crossposted to LiveJournal. You can comment here or there!

  • Wow, pretty!

    And OMG, Luray Caverns! I loved that place, but went there before I had a decent camera of my own. Pluto's Ghost was haunting (at least to my teenaged mind) and Dream Lake (I think that's the lake in the photo you posted) was amazing.
    • I thought Pluto's Ghost looked like movie!Saruman! :D

      I think it is called the Dream Lake. My mind was remembering "Green Lake" for some reason, probably because it rhymed and my brain is weird.
  • What some amazing photos. Gorgeous. There are not enough forests round here, so seeing all those trees is comforting.

    I have cabin-in-the-woods hunger as well. It reminds me of a place we used to go each year in north Wales where you could not get tv, and even now cellphones won't work, and the water came out of a mountain stream. But it was wonderful.
    • You should come out here sometime; we have all the forests one could want and then some. ;)

      Your cabin sounds wonderful too. *sigh*
      • We need more forests. In fact, the local council started the Great Western Forest a few years ago round here, but the trees are very young as yet.

        I can't believe how that beaver chewed into that tree-trunk! O_o

        The best holidays of my youth and teens were spent there, with no tv, and slate floors. :)
        It's Nantmor Mountain Center now, but it's just the same. Even the humungous cook-for-twenty-people pots in the kitchen look like the same ones.
        • The icon actually has nothing to do with your comment except that you mentioned a beaver. :^P

          Nantmor looks beautiful! My husband and I expect to travel to Wales sometime in the next few years, so the wheels are already turning ... ;)

          We all need more forests! There have been studies that show how just the sight of trees causes an almost immediate drop in people's stress. The explanation that I've heard is that it scratches an ancient evolutionary itch where people developed an attraction to trees because they portended water, food, and protection. Regardless of the reason, though, don't take me too far from my trees; I get even crazier than I already am! :D
          • the wheels are already turning ... ;)

            Oh, I really hope you do. I never feel as *home* in England as I do in Wales, although the north especially, is not *friendly* country, but it is starkly beautiful.

            There have been studies that show how just the sight of trees causes an almost immediate drop in people's stress.

            It's probably no wonder that I associate security with when I lived in the country. There were trees all around the house, three of them very large and mature, and the sound of wind in the trees, either gentle or fierce, has a very lulling effect on me.
  • What a beautiful place!
  • Ooooh, lovely pics. It sounds like you had a wonderful time. I must admit to having a severe case of trip envy.
  • OMG, I'm so jealous! Everything looks so fun. Can we come along next time?
  • Beautiful post and pictures! :)
  • Oooooo, what lovely countryside! It almost makes me think that a job teaching at UVA might be worth having to live in the second-most-active death penalty state in the country.
  • That looks amazing! Such gorgeous landscapes! I'm glad you had such a great time.
    I want to go somewhere with forests now :)
    • It was wonderful! :)

      I want to go somewhere with forests now :)

      Just like I told spiced_wine: Come over here! :D We have more forests than you could shake a (fallen) stick at!
  • Oh, these are gorgeous photos from the "micro" (the wee salamander) to the "macro" (the landscapes). I had not heard of the Luray Caverns -- the sample photos you've posted here are spelunkerrific!

    I especially love the photos of Monticello, Thomas Jefferson *swoooooon* fancrone that I am.

    *Edited to use appropriate icon. ;^)

    Edited at 2010-09-23 02:48 pm (UTC)
    • Jefferson was without a doubt my favorite character in John Adams so ... *hearts icon* And his polygraph? So there at Monticello! I was elbowing Bobby and trying not to distract the tour guide when we walked into the room where it was! :D

      You would have really liked it there, I'm sure. The scenery was gorgeous, and there was lots to distract someone with horticultural tendencies. :)

      Luray is definitely worth the detour too. It's a mile-and-a-half underground and really quite stunning. I enjoyed Indian Echo Caverns up by Hershey, but they didn't hold a candle to Luray.
  • Hahahaha, sorry, but I have been giggling while I read this. Your dad's reaction to the cabin was just precious! I am super glad you had such a fab time there sans interwebz connection, but wow I would love to be able to see the milkyway. We have way too much light pollution, even in remote area's.
    • The first time I saw the Milky Way was an amazing experience. We were out at Deep Creek Lake in the Maryland mountains; at the time, I was still living with my parents, and they are within 20 minutes of Baltimore, so there is way too much light pollution there too. On even moderately clear nights, we can see it out here, but it's even better at a place like Montfair, where it just seems a ribbon of stars stretched across the sky. :)

      I wish I could have gotten a picture of my dad gazing around himself in the cabin! It was priceless! :D
      • The night sky in the south is a marvel! ! I remember summers next to the sea 400km south of here: the sky so black, the Milky Way so bright that you could only watch speechless and go philosophical about the universe (a timely power cut helped, this is Latin America after all) (*invites Rhapsody to share star gazing in the South*)
        The caves are also marvelous!
        Poor Lancelot! I'm sure my beasts would have peed inside to relieve the tension of being in a strange place!
        • The night sky in the south is a marvel!

          I have a (still unsated) lust to see the Southern Cross! :D I love our constellations here and, since moving here, am becoming increasingly familiar with them and wonder what the experience would be like to look skyward and have no familiar bearings.

          I'm sure my beasts would have peed inside to relieve the tension of being in a strange place!

          The last time we took Lance on a trip, we went to Deep Creek Lake with some friends. Lance was still puppyish. As usual, he would not do his business outside. One of our friends came to get me at one point because he caught Lance doing his thing--in the bathroom! Well, at least he knew the proper room. ;)

          Happy Spring to you, btw! :)
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