December 31, 2009
Dear Friends and Family –
So as the Aughties or Naughties, or whatever they’re supposed to be called, draw to a close, I suppose I could agree with Time Magazine that it was the “Decade from Hell.” There were some pretty rough times these past ten years. And yet, there were plenty of other times when I have never been happier. 2009 certainly played out that way. Despite the financial hardships (no big farm projects this year!) I had a lot of fun over the past 12 months. The most memorable moments of the year were those spent in the company of family and friends. The Great Recession may have done serious damage to my bank balance, but it did give me time for once to balance out the rest of my life. Keith and I enjoyed some great trips this past year that gave us a chance to re-connect with those who are most important to us (okay, the cynics among you might be thinking “yeah, well maybe, but it also gave you a chance to save on hotel bills too!”). Weddings, funerals, big birthdays and small ones, holiday celebrations, grand dinner parties and simple picnic lunches this past year all underscored the point poignantly – family and friends keep you happy when times get tough.
January started quietly enough. Inaugural activities in DC brought visits from my brother Wayne and his family from Chicago for a few days, and David Thompson from California.
January Photos (click on photo below to see the rest)
The first week in February saw us in Los Angeles. I have to admit that I’d never been a big fan of southern California in the few times I’d been there before, but Keith wanted to show me his old stomping grounds, and so I went with an open mind. What a terrific time we had! You can read all about it HERE (please click here and read it!). I’m looking forward to the next time already. The end of February was tinged with sorrow as we lost two good friends, Claudia and Richard Lykes within days of one another.
February Photos (click on photo below to see the rest)
This year’s lambing season reached its peak in early March. This year’s crop of 78 lambs came mostly without incident and was probably the smoothest of any we’ve had in the past 12 years. I stopped having birthdays years ago, but that didn’t stop Keith from taking me to the Inn at Little Washington for an extravagant birthday dinner. Not to be outdone, friends Heike and Richard surprised me with a cozy birthday dinner at their home in Washington, DC too! We also had a great visit on the farm from Keith’s niece Rebecca and her family, and Keith’s sister Barbara proved to be the best shot on our firing range! In a manic week of tree planting, Keith and farm manager Jeremy helped me plant over 700 seedlings of Hornbeam, Hackberry, Red maple “Autumn Glory”, Washington Hawthorne, Scarlet Oak, Swamp White Oak, Chestnut Oak, sugar maples, loblolly pines, dogwoods, redbuds, and four different types of Virburnum (whew!) all over the farm. Years ago I had made a promise to myself that I would have everything on the farm planted and landscaped by age 50 so I could pretty much just collapse after that and watch everything grow for the next 30 years or so. Since time is rapidly running out on that plan, we planted with a vengeance. Now to see if they’ll actually grow.
March Photos (click on photo below to see the rest)
Spring sprung in April like it does every year. And every year that means sheep shearing, the ODH point-to-point races, and an increase of activity in the local real estate market. All of these happened except the latter. So, this year Keith and I took some time to drive down to Tryon, NC to visit my mother for a long weekend and the annual Blockhouse races. We checked out nearby Pearson Falls, went to a party at Trip & Alan’s Camp Firewater and poked around Asheville on the way home. We also started a new spring tradition with the creation of the Touchstone Community Garden (please click here to read more about this!).
April Photos (click on photo below to see the rest)
May was wet. It rained constantly and even forced the annual RCCA gala indoors. But the garden grew, and grass finally covered last year’s earthmoving projects. In between the raindrops I managed to have some real estate activity and we were able to make some hay at the end of the month. The Piedmont Virginian gave us a nice write-up and Chris Hall visited the farm. We also got to spend time with Keith’s rock star nephew Jeff Zona.
May Photos (click on photo below to see the rest)
Summer began cool and rainy in June. Despite the rain, we made more hay and tended the growing garden, and weaned lambs. Keith’s birthday dinner on the 15th was all taken care of by his sisters Barbara & Yvonne. All I had to do was show up with the funny hats.
June Photos (click on photo below to see the rest)
July was just non-stop fun. The weather was constantly beautiful – it one of the coolest Julys on record in Virginia. Every day seemed like a picnic, and none more so than the 4th. My old housemates Steve Loucks and Ann Marie Pulsch came out to the farm for a picnic on the 3rd. Ann Marie prepared all the food, so you know it was good. We started Independence Day at a neighbor’s pool party cook-out, then headed over to watch the local fireworks with the rest of the County and finished up the evening by watching the musicians and singers of the first annual Castleton Music Festival cut loose in a massively entertaining free-form late night jam session (who knew opera singers were so wild?). The great thing about the day was that it was all right in our own backyard, we had world-class fun, and it was FREE! What’s not to like about that in a recession? We were so impressed with the talent of the young musicians who had gathered from around the world to participate in the Castleton Festival, that we even bought tickets to see the Festival performance of Britten’s “Rape of Lucretia.” Perhaps not the most light-hearted opera, but amazing music nonetheless!
Between the rehearsal dinner and wedding, we managed to sample some of Napa and Sonoma’s best wines (Stag’s Leap was by far our favorite vineyard and appellation) and then spend half a day in San Francisco. Our SF adventure started with an amazing brunch at Zuni Cafe (still the best in town) and an incredible tour of the city by good friend Peter Sisson, and ended with dinner at Spruce (which didn’t quite live up to its billing). It was an all too short a trip, but it was wonderful to watch Rick & John tie the knot.
July Photos (click on photo below to see the rest)
August finally brought some some summer heat, but still it remained relatively mild as we brought in our third cutting of hay. Sadly, our swans Castor & Pollux met an untimely end. Someone or something tried to capture the swans and were successful with Pollux. We found Castor in a neighbor’s forest looking very bewildered. He spent the next few weeks never venturing very far from the house, as if to reassure himself that we’d provide him protection. One night coming home we found him lying dead near the front door. No sign of trauma, but perhaps he felt too alone without his brother.
Later in the month we had an awesome dinner at friends John & Diane MacPherson’s Foster-Harris House. We wanted to get John & Diane together with our foodie friends Matthew Lyons & Carla Hall and our TV friends Richard & Heike Wells. Everyone had a wonderful evening and, who knows?, a TV show might just be the result. At the end of the month we went north to visit friends. We took the train to Boston and from there rented a car to drive to Portsmouth, NH to visit George Eatman. From there we drove to Nobleboro, ME to visit friends Carol Rowan & Deb Gross and our Virginia country neighbors the Nicklins, before heading down to Ogunquit to visit my old housemate Scott Squillace and his husband Shawn. We had the best time sponging off our generous friends and taking in all the amazing scenery. I hope we didn’t abuse their hospitality too much, ’cause we’d love to get invited back next year (hint, hint).
August Photos (click on photo below to see the rest)
As usual, September was once again a hugely busy month. We hit the ground running after New England. The main focus was to get the farm in shape for the annual NACFA meeting, which this year was hosted by all the members of our local lamb co-op. In between mowing, trimming, and cleaning, we had a chance to experience the Taste of Rappahannock, the Thornton Hill Hounds Point-to-Point, co-op partner Jerome Niessen’s 50th birthday party, and other social events. In the midst of all this activity I somehow managed to get Lyme disease again – the same time as last year – and had to dash to Chicago for quick business trip. The annual sheep meeting went off without a hitch (well, it did rain most of the time), and we had a great group of people come from all over – including the UK’s top Clun Forest Sheep breeder, Mike Eckley. We finished the weekend by having Dr. Martin Dally A.I. over 30 ewes with semen from a ram in Mike’s flock in Wales. We put another 50 ewes in various breeding groups, so we’re hoping the results will be 100 or so top quality lambs born in late February.
September Photos (click on photo below to see the rest)
October was even more hectic than September. It just kept coming at me! The month started with great friend and old housemate Ann Marie Pulsch’s big birthday bash, then a quick visit from my brother Geoff and his family, then Keith’s mother’s 87th birthday party, and non-stop real estate busy-ness, including a one day trip to Denver. Unfortunately all the real estate activity didn’t end up in any exciting sales or listings, but it did allow me to really appreciate the outstanding fall color this year. The colors in town were amazing. Speaking of amazing, I never knew what amazing pain a dying nerve could generate in your teeth until I had to have an emergency root canal in late October. That hurt! The pain was eased by a Halloween weekend visit by my old grade school friend Chris Caravette and his partner Patrick. Chris has been obsessed with airplanes since he was a little kid, so it was great to see the new annex of the Air & Space museum with him. We had great visit with them.
October Photos (click on photo below to see the rest)
The death of my Uncle Lawrence Powers brought the family together in early November. It was good to see all of my cousins and my siblings together in Chicago. My sister Jen even flew in from Germany. Though it was a sad occasion, we all enjoyed the chance to catch up with each other’s lives.
While I’m officially too old to have favorite pop groups, I’ve been grooving to the tunes of the Hidden Cameras for the past couple years now. When I heard that they were touring North America, I jumped at the chance to see them in DC. Dragging Keith and friends Brian and Dwight along, we checked out the scene on the H Street Corridor where all the kids are hanging out these days. While we were twice the age of most people there, we had a great dinner at Sticky Rice and really enjoyed the concert at the Rock and Roll Hotel. Thanksgiving this year was a quiet affair with Keith’s mother and brother Christopher and sister Yvonne.
November Photos (click on photo below to see the rest)
Even though there weren’t as many lavish Christmas parties to attend this December I still managed to gain my traditional 5 lbs of holiday weight. Don’t know how I did that, but it gets harder and harder to take it off each new year. Keith surprised me with a quick pre-Christmas train trip to Philadelphia for a few days. We did the usual tourist stuff and had great food and fun. Local predictions of a long hard winter came true mid-month when we had the Great Blizzard of ’09, or ‘snowpocalypse‘ as some called it. For us it was actually a lot of fun to get nearly 2 feet of snow in 24 hours. We had enough warning to plan for the event and make sure the critters had enough food and we had enough wood split to keep the fireplace going for 2 days. Keith made a big vat of his famous pasta sauce with meatballs and we had plenty of red wine and Netflix. What more could you want in a snow storm? Good thing we had a big John Deere tractor with a bucket to plow ourselves out though. I was so proud of myself for plowing out the farm drive (0.6 miles to the road one way, and 0.4 miles the other) that I didn’t even stop to think that the County might not have plowed the road itself (which it hadn’t). We convened a meeting of the venerable South Poes Sledding Society (SPSS) the next day, but only a few stalwart members showed up – and the snow was too deep and fluffy for good sledding. Christmas morning we got up extra early for the drive down to Tryon, NC to spend the holiday with my mother and some of my brothers. We had a great time watching nieces and nephews tear into presents and visiting my brother Geoff’s new farm in Greenville, SC (note: he has no idea what he’s letting himself in for!).
December Photos (click on photo below to see the rest)
So that’s been my year. While not as busy as in year’s past, I had more time to smell the roses with people that matter. If I didn’t get the chance to see you in person this year, there’s always time in 2010 to make it happen!
Happy New Year,