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Virginia Jaunts And Escapades

[Photos and construction information of our off grid zero energy systems in the prefab house kit / green building progress coming soon. Yep, yer gonna have to wait further. Believe me I am as anxious as you to install our off grid systems and get heat here before the fall! But this is the last weekend of summer. We enjoyed it.]

One note on camping in the off grid zero energy prefab house kit (still with zero off grid systems not installed) in September: Unlike summer, when the screened windows are wide open, September brings some interesting notes: the temperature outdoors climbs high during the early afternoon, but drops dramatically at night.

Indoors, during the day with the windows open, it is breezy and comfortable.  At night, we crack a few windows to keep it from getting too hot even as the temperature drops but close the rest, and it is always surprising to walk outside in the morning and see how COLD it is outdoors.

I have to temper my brutal-winter-survival mode and resist how I approach being here in January; it would easily get too hot indoors, just from buttoning up and the movement of children playing!

September through November is when we used to be able to camp on the land in our 1960s teardrop camper when the children were toddlers - we couldn't camp in the true summer's heat; still it would be challenging to get through each evening, through the cold. Even without our zero energy off grid systems installed, the difference between then and "camping" in the off grid zero energy prefab, is incomparable.

This weekend was all about Virginia Jaunts And Escapades.

I admit I have been cranky. Hence the desperate clinging to summer's waning light. I know and am grateful we have our raw land-being-slowly-turned-into-a-permanent-home, Higher Ground, and my parent's Bay House to run to.

But dag it, we all have worked over fifty hour weeks all summer long (and that's supposed to be our "down time" in the business cycle) and we are now short-fused. It's a good problem to have. I am not going to go into that. I am going to vent as someone who has not had a maternity leave for either of their children yet, and they're now in frickin' elementary school!

I wanted a VACATION. You know, a real WEEK off. It didn't happen. It never happens, I have four businesses! I watched that narrow window of opportunity diminish to impossible as the summer closed and School Time neared with desperation.

Sulking out to a happy weekend on the land, thinking of What We Could Have Done If That Durned Technology Project Was Done (I was putting the blame on his work, but really folks, you know I would have had to equally cancel vacations on my end. Too many projects coming to fruition at too close of a critical time to allow ANY project managers to leave...)

I just desperately just wanted to feel like... I did something this summer for more than a weekend, went somewhere, relaxed.

And here begins my South Of France Argument.

As we drove down the allées, almost to the land, my brain flashed back to drives in the French countryside, to drives in rural Germany... where, like here, the winding gorgeous country roads twist gently, flanked by old cedars and groves...

Every now and then a sudden village quickly rises, and you memorize the architecture, the local color, and community all centered in one tiny spot, the cooking, the season in which you passed...

I started to laugh: "Waaaaait a second. All those experiences, I cherish still, but
Second: THIS is just as gorgeous, just as historic (ok fine you don't have the Roman stone wall ruins of the French countryside but honeychile we have old tobacco barns and split rail fences! And just as much wine!), and... you don't have to spend thousands and thousands of dollars to just get there. You just need to know where to go, and how to do that tour!"


Now if I did today over, I wouldn't do it like this. (Eyebrows raised, glances surreptitiously, meaningfully at Handsome Husband, Mr. "I Drive The Alphabet Vs. Going From Point A To Point B" Casati...)


Thank you, Handsome Husband.
I will never long for the south of France or rural Germany again, when I have VIRGINIA. Not to say I won't go and enjoy it, we're sociable! But I have become especially grateful for Virginia.
Heck, we can even speak German with the Amish if we desire the sounds of foreign tongue! ; )

We started the day in Appomattox.
Take the walking tour of Appomattox (plenty of brochures in the Appomattox tourism center on Main Street).

Carefully but jovially ate at Grannie B's. (Embrace the stewed toe-maaaaaaah-toes and corn pudding. Skeptically consider the meat, and when ordering, stick to the baked ham, steak sandwich, etc. or you will get PARTS-rolled-into-something-claiming-to-be-a-patty.)

Browsed through the fabulous Baines Books & Coffee, where they celebrate local food (and use our friends' Frog Bottom Farms produce), local crafts, and often have local music play in the evening.

We also visited B & L Sales (go into the left room, tons of great recycled finds! There was a great wicker picnic basket set there for $20! Handsome Husband: "You already have FOUR picnic baskets. Keep moving."), Appomattox Crafts Center (local crafts for sale!), and FINALLY, while the children were, with Handsome Husband, safely in Baines reading books and eating scones, I finally was able to sneak away without children to The Appomattox Gallery at the end of Main Street - with over 15,000 square feet of very breakable antiques!

From the Salvation Army Thrift Store we got a bunch of cool, colorful 1960s vintage cookbooks, and at the country store, picked up a bunch of local newspapers (useful to see what's going on over the weekend). Great weekend reading!

We headed home via back roads (down Red House Road)... until, at Red House, when we were supposed to go left, Handsome Husband said, "Look! That house looks cool down there, let's go right!"

I was game.
For awhile.

Until I realized we were frickin' headed to Brookneal!

Now, Brookneal needs to be a day trip.
See, you *start* by heading down 47, visiting Mrs. Esh's Amish stand in the morning on the way, cutting down Germantown Road, with your day destination a cool event already going on at Patrick Henry's Red Hill, so you get yer history AND excitement, then finish the afternoon at Sans Soucy Winery with a wine tasting. That's how *I* planned it, when looking at the map last, a year ago.

Of course we didn't follow a planned schedule, practical-like, we're at the mercy of Handsome Husband!

Thank goodness, because we ended up finally visiting and lingering at Sans Soucy Vineyards, with Cameron giving a fabulous overview of their delicious and varied wines while the children spent the time adoringly petting, pampering and grooming a willing winery lab. This tasting encompasses quite a range of wines!

Whether you lean towards dry or sweet, they have award winning wines for you to consider. If you enjoy sushi you must purchase a bottle of their Ginger Wine, served cold, to enjoy with your next summer sushi.

Sans Soucy Vineyard
hosts lots of neat events, make sure you coordinate your weekend with something special there! You can easily stay in historic Charlotte Courthouse (which also has a walking tour) at The Henry House- make sure you check with the hosts there about the food, if you are a foodie... I know he trained in Switzerland and likes to serve Swiss and authentic Virginia colonial food.

We wound our way home, and I critically compared the occasional glimpses of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the matured hay in the fields, old homes and structures...

...the unexpected cedar lined allées... rolling hills, the cows... (and I used to compare cows of every country I visited, I used to say you could tell a country by its cows)... and suddenly it was clear: I already knew it, I've been talking about it this entire time but I will say I felt it this weekend: Respite, discovery, and bowled over by what is in my back yard. You could not have had a better adventure in the south of France. : )

And this was Day One.

Day Two, we awoke to a brilliant sunrise, all pinks and oranges streaked with blue...
Handsome Husband built a bridge over the creek with leftover wood in the morning which serves several purposes:
  • protects the beloved creek so the tractor doesn't muddy it when he has to pass over it to bushogg the road beyond
  • protects the children when, sledding down one steep hill with the creek at the bottom to then ascend the next steep hill, they are able to do so without ending up upended in icy water!

In the afternoon we piled into the car and wound the back roads, thus cutting off 20 minutes of the official commute, to Holliday Lake State Park.

Those vintage cookbooks we had been poring over all weekend?

That atmosphere, of the sparkling lake ringed with rolling hills, the red canoes, the barbeques, the Time Life Photographs Of A Life Far Away And Unobtainable... well, they are, HERE, honeys. That picture postcard camping and camraderie in Virginia State Park life still exists!

On the beach, you wade in easily following your children on a gentle slope as they make their way to the rafts, to climb and then jump off in a big spash, you smell that fresh water lake air, watch the schools of minnows run ahead of your steps along the sandy floor... and, as you stand waist deep, egging yourself on for an end-of-season plunge despite the cooling afternoon, see: just beyond the ropes: groups in canoes, out for a spin, you admiring them, the view, they, in turn, admiring the picturesque beach.

A mid-century travelogue postcard, live.
This is what those families who for generations travel endless hours traditionally from the south, heading north to lake houses, experience, except... it's here.
This is why people drive hours to the south of France, why they roam Switzerland, southern Germany: hoping to discover a place like this, to talk about and cherish in memory, to hopefully return to one day...
Except... it's here.

You can camp, you can fish, you can hike, canoe, paddle boat... you can even have lake-side barbeques.

It's crazy: Twenty-ish winding, twisting, backroad minutes away from our land, and you're in another world.

In the time it would take to drive to some ugly Anywhere USA Suburban Shopping Mall in any city, you could be here.

We plan on, next summer, doing chores in the early morning, wearing the dogs out, serving lunch, then heading over to swim in the hottest hours with the dogs closed up comfortably inside the prefab's shade, until the evening's edge hints of coolness, to return, still hints of lake-side dampness in our hair, as the daylight fades.

And that's how we'll get through our hot summers:
with Park Rangers, canoes, barbecues, and a beach.

I am now not clinging to summer.
Thanks to this weekend, I am excitedly looking forward to fall and winter:

It is clear we will attend at least one autumn event at Sans Soucy Vineyard, while visiting Patrick Henry's Red Hill.

It is clear we have a lot of hiking and barbecues to fire with friends in crisp weather at Holliday Lake State Park.

It is clear we need to bring a vintage fondue pot out to the off grid zero energy prefab house kit to prepare for our winter Ski Vacation In Switzerland But Really We're On The Land Tramping Around In Skis.

It is clear we have a lot more to discover here... Onward to adventure!!!!!

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At 9/8/10, 1:04 PM , Anonymous Nancy Heltman said...

Sounds like some wonderful exploring. Holliday Lake is a true gem in central Virginia and I'm glad you got to enjoy it. I am definitely going to check out some of the rest of the locations!


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