To the Blue Ridge

From the Bay to the Blue Ridge, To the Blue Ridge

Older Women, Younger Whiskey….Faster Horses!

By Julie Reardon Or is that old Tom T. Hall favorite supposed to be younger women and older whiskey along with the faster horses? Regardless of what attracts a young man’s fancy these days, the  drum of hoof beats kicks off the unofficial start of summer in the Blue Ridge as popular tailgating venues have returned to full swing in horse country after a two season pandemic disruption. I’ll leave the whiskey discussion to our editors, since I don’t drink and they’ve spent countless hours exploring the distilleries, wineries and breweries cropping up in our area. I’ll just add that this is the first tailgate season that weed has been legal to consume in the Commonwealth so don’t forget to pack the spliffs and the edibles if drinking isn’t your thing. Although the first Saturday in May, the 7th this year, is Kentucky Derby day for horse racing fans nationally, here in Virginia it’s Gold Cup day. Kentucky’s famous horse race, first run in 1875, may be the country’s best-known equestrian event, George Washington was hunting hounds here in Virginia and colonials were racing horses before Kentucky was even settled. And here in suburban Northern Virginia, the Kentucky Derby is held on Gold Cup day, not the reverse. On May 7th, the Derby will have to share top billing with the Virginia Gold Cup steeplechase race meet, held at Great Meadow, The Plains, VA. The Fast Horses With crowds of over 40,000 in attendance, the Gold Cup is to Washington D.C. what the Derby is to Kentucky: a premiere social and sporting events.  Arrangements and tailgating parties are planned months, even years, in advance; prime tailgating and rail side boxes are often passed down in wills.  Pent up demand may equal short supply. Last month’s Middleburg Spring Races sold out…

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From the Bay to the Blue Ridge, To the Blue Ridge

The Rip Off World of Animal Rescue

By Julie Reardon This month, I’m going to stray from my typical column highlighting happenings in the Blue Ridge a take this opportunity to skewer a sacred cow. Groups calling themselves rescues are not all saints and many are not what they seem. Thanks to our insatiable demand for companion animals and the very successful animal rights driven anti-breeder campaign of the past two decades, the rescue industry is booming, especially for trade in cute little fluffy dogs with big eyes and snub noses. Tax free cash donations flow freely to save horses, and now dogs, from the meat trade. All this easy cash has attracted unsavory scammers, liars and rip off artists out for a tax free quick buck. Yes, tax free. All a rescue group has to do to claim non-profit status is send the IRS a postcard annually stating they make less than $50,000 a year. If they make more than that, they must fill out IRS form 990. More on that below. Not all rescues are bad of course, just as not all breeders are evil. And while shelters might be full of dogs, they’re not the ones people want. And it’s much harder to recoup costs or even adopt out the majority of shelter dogs, because most are pit bulls or mixes—large and often not suitable for families with other pets or small children. Hence, an underground trade of dogs imported from Third World puppy mills has quietly gained a foothold to meet the demand. Savvy horse trading scammers zeroed in on ‘saving’ horses bound for slaughter as a fountain of easy money. Never mind that there are no slaughter houses that process horses anywhere in the U.S., and haven’t been any for over 15 years. But the scammers post on Facebook and social media…

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From the Bay to the Blue Ridge, To the Blue Ridge

Party of One

By Julie Reardon If you’re single, either by choice or circumstance, then you’ve probably noticed that restaurants, vacation packages and outings seem to cater to and certainly advertise to appeal to couples and/or families, especially at this time of year. But not everyone is in a relationship with a significant other, and not everyone has a large, close extended family with someone readily available to dine and vacation with. Even with a large circle of friends, it’s not always easy to find someone, especially on short notice, to try a new restaurant or go on a vacation with or take on a spur of the moment day trip. And even those in relationships and enjoying close knit families sometimes might want to try something their partner/family is patently uninterested in. Most things that couples and families enjoy, can also be enjoyed solo even if it does require more motivation to go out there and do it. Many people still harbor hesitation, for example, to dine alone at high end restaurants. They’re afraid of what others might think of them when they see a party of one at a table for two. And what, pray tell, does going solo to a nice restaurant have to do with the rural Blue Ridge? Well, not much actually other than it’s not just dining alone in a big name city eatery that unnerves some. Many small town and rural dwellers share the same fears—that others will think they’re friendless or losers or worse. And that’s nonsense of course, but sometimes the drumbeats of doubt drown out common sense. Anonymity can sometimes help quell the doubts—after all, if you don’t see anyone you know, who cares? There are a vast array of varied dining establishments just a short drive west of town. If, as I…

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From the Bay to the Blue Ridge, To the Blue Ridge

Spring Fever- Racing Over Fences Starts March 5th

By Julie Reardon It surely doesn’t feel like spring in February, with no signs other than a lonely crocus or two struggling up through the snow. But there are signs. The sun rising earlier and setting later as daylight gradually increases. The occasional taste of warmth on a bright sunny day. We know it’s coming: the hunt country’s harbinger of spring – opening of the point to point season. For true horse lovers, those suffering from cabin fever, and those looking for a social distancing-friendly country outing, there’s nothing like the early race meets in March. These races tend to be smaller more informal affairs but there’s no shortage of equine talent as the country’s top steeplechasers as well as hot young prospects make their debut racing over fences after a winter layoff. This year’s season opener is Saturday March 5th at a new venue on the calendar. The Rappahannock Hunt races opens the 2022 season at The Hill, a spectacular 600-acre farm just north of the town of Culpeper. Post time for the card of races over fences and on the flat is 1 pm, gates open at 10 am. Rain date is Saturday, March 12. With over $4 million in total purses, meets in 12 states, and millions of spectators, steeplechasing is big business. Some of the best horses and horsemen thoroughbred racing has to offer race over fences, and it all starts right here in Virginia next month. The governing body, the National Steeplechase Association, sanctions the big meets later in the spring, including the best known Virginia Gold Cup races in May. But point to points, run under rules similar to the NSA, are where it all starts for both horses and riders and offer a wonderful social outing for fans as well. Virginia holds more…

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From the Bay to the Blue Ridge, To the Blue Ridge

COVID In the Country

By Julie Reardon COVID In the Country A year ago, as COVID cases and rules about masks, social distancing and cancellation of gatherings dragged along, we considered how lucky we were to live in a rural area where it’s easy to social distance and avoid exposure to the virus. It’s also easy to hide stuff like your own declining health, filling me with a false sense of complacency. Unbeknownst to me, I got COVID early on, which I mistakenly treated as a garden variety respiratory infection. After all, in January and February 2020, no one had heard of COVID—not until March. So I never saw a doctor about my nagging respiratory infection. Only marginally improved after 2 months, pollen season hit with a vengeance. My lungs, already scarred from chronic asthma, struggled. It was also very easy to hide how short of breath I’d gotten, and the weight I’d gained. With my compromised lungs I took no chances and neither of us went anywhere unless we absolutely had to. I only went to the grocery for curbside grocery pick up and the post office. Our post office is tiny, so it was easy to wait until no one else was in the little building to go in. Anything picked up outside our farm was disinfected and our hands washed before entering the house. The problem with hiding your worsening health from friends and family is that you start to believe yourself that your health problems are no big deal. The pandemic and related restrictions made it easy to keep my shortness of breath and worsening asthma well hidden from friends and family as well as myself. And 2021 started on a bad note. In January we lost my oldest dog, a male Chesapeake that was almost 15. In the spring,…

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From the Bay to the Blue Ridge, To the Blue Ridge

Merry Christmas from the Blue Ridge!

By Julie Reardon Merry Christmas from the Blue Ridge! A friend who lives in the mountains shares this story every holiday season and it’s one of my favorites. I only recently found out the author’s name since various versions have been around for many years, variously titled A Christmas Prayer and The Rifle, and that it’s not actually a true story. The author was a sheep herder and wrote it one freezing night while pondering how to explain the true meaning of Christmas to his children. I think you will enjoy it as much as I do. A Christmas Story By Rian Anderson Pa never had much compassion for the lazy or those who squandered their means and then never had enough for the necessities. But for those who were genuinely in need, his heart was as big as all outdoors. It was from him that I learned the greatest joy in life comes from giving, not from receiving. It was Christmas Eve 1881. I was fifteen years old and feeling like the world had caved in on me because there just hadn’t been enough money to buy me the rifle that I’d wanted so bad that year for Christmas. We did the chores early that night for some reason. I just figured Pa wanted a little extra time so we could read in the Bible. So, after supper was over, I took my boots off and stretched out in front of the fireplace and waited for Pa to get down the old Bible. I was still feeling sorry for myself and, to be honest, I wasn’t in much of a mood to read scriptures. But Pa didn’t get the Bible, instead he bundled up and went outside. I couldn’t figure it out because we had already done all the…

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From the Bay to the Blue Ridge, To the Blue Ridge

Chestnuts, a Vital Ingredient to the American Melting Pot

By Kim Evoy Bryant Chestnuts, a Vital Ingredient to the American Melting Pot I’m sitting at my farm in Nelson County, Virginia. We grow chestnuts and this is the first time we have invited folks to come and pick their own chestnuts. I had questions. Would anyone want to pick chestnuts, would they be okay with driving down our dirt road, would they be able to find our farm nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains? It’s a perfect fall day with the sun out and just warm enough for everyone to enjoy. The cars start coming in and I’m a little nervous about what people will think about picking chestnuts. It’s not a difficult task, but can take a little while. Chestnuts, when ripe and ready for harvest, fall to the ground, so each nut has to be harvested from the floor of the orchard. As the day goes on, I realize that more than 50% of the people coming for the harvest are first- generation Americans. Their parents have come from Korea, China, Japan, Croatia, Serbia, Italy, Greece, Finland, Turkey, Russia, Philippines and Macedonia, maybe more. My ancestors originated in some of these countries. Our visitors are so excited and keep telling us stories about chestnuts in their country and how they had been waiting for this day. One gentleman was overjoyed, said he had been “looking for a chestnut orchard for 16 years” and was elated that we were within driving distance. With his son by his side, he shared a lovely memory of being a boy in his country and picking chestnuts. What has happened on our farm is amazing to us! My husband and I initially set out to grow a crop that would be profitable and take us into retirement. We love…

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From the Bay to the Blue Ridge, To the Blue Ridge

“Fall” in Love with Fauquier & Loudoun

By Julie Reardon “Fall” in Love with Fauquier & Loudoun Crisp clear days, brisk nights and fall colors are reasons why fall is a perfect time to visit Fauquier County. In addition to the fabulous colors of leaves changing in the Blue Ridge and surrounds, usually at its prime at the end of October, the golden light of fall makes everything look prettier for selfies and social media sharing. Whether you want to take in the abundance of harvest at the fall farmers’ markets, pick some apples and enjoy some cider, watch horses race or wine and dine, there’s something for everyone this month. On Saturday, October 2nd, take in some fine bluegrass in Marshall. The Flatbeds and Tailfins Concert Series is proud to be bringing back for a return visit The Country Gentlemen Tribute Band. The band members were initially chosen by one of the original members of the Country Gentlemen band, Bill Yates, to best pay tribute to one of the most recognized Bluegrass Bands of all time. If you were a fan of the Country Gentlemen, come hear for yourself how good they sound. These Gentlemen will be taking the stage Saturday October 2, 2021 at 6pm. Doors open at 5pm, at the Marshall Community Center Theatre located at 4133 Rectortown Rd, Marshall, Virginia. General Admission Tickets are $20.00 in advance, or $25.00 at the door. Kids 3 and under are free. Telephone Ticket Orders are Accepted 10a-2p Monday-Friday at (540) 422-2507 (No Service Charges for Telephone Orders). Sorry, No Refunds or Rainchecks Available. Group Rates are Available (10 Tickets or more), call for more information (540) 422-2507. Come on out to Orlean on Saturday, Oct. 9th for Orlean Day/Octoberfest at the Orlean Market and enjoy some of the best Blue Ridge views in the county. You…

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From the Bay to the Blue Ridge, To the Blue Ridge

FROM COW PATTIES TO HORSE APPLES

To the Blue Ridge By Julie Reardon FROM COW PATTIES TO HORSE APPLES Virginia Tech studies the ins and outs of pasture grazing at research farm in Middleburg From cow nutrition to diapered horses, Virginia Tech has quietly been conducting agricultural experiments in Middleburg for almost 75 years. Surrounded by some of the highest priced real estate in the area, the Middleburg Agricultural Research and Extension Center lies one mile south of the quaint town of Middleburg. It’s one of 13 agricultural research farms maintained by the cooperative extension program throughout the state. In 1949, the late local landowner and philantropist. Paul Mellon of Upperville, VA, made a gift of 420 acres of farmland to the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University along with financial support to help establish the Virginia Forage Research Station. Mr. Mellon envisioned forage systems that would promote animal productivity and, at the same time, maintain the integrity and fertility of the soils and the livestock they supported. Research activities began in July 1949. For the first 40 years, research at the Virginia Forage Research Station focused on cattle nutrition derived from grazing Virginia pastures. Part of the charter of Virginia’s land grant universities Virginia Tech and Virginia State University tasks them with educating Virginians and helping them improve their lives by providing research based educational resources through a network of campuses, research farms and educators at county offices. Virginia Cooperative Extension is a product of cooperation among local, state, and federal governments in partnership with tens of thousands of citizens. Throughout the first 40 years of the Virginia Forage Research Station, the number of cattle farms decreased while the number of horses and horse farms in Northern Virginia steadily increased.  Mellon, a horseman as well as philanthropist, began discussions with a panel of distinguished scientists…

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From the Bay to the Blue Ridge, To the Blue Ridge

LIFE’S SHORT. GET THE PUPPY.

By Julie Reardon LIFE’S SHORT. GET THE PUPPY. The timing could not have been worse, but I knew I had to have her. This new puppy I got this summer would represent the third, and probably final attempt, to have a competitive field trial dog before I got too old to enjoy it. My first two attempts ended with a $65,000 cripple and a broken jaw that left a facial deformity that interfered with her vision. Some of you regular readers might recall the sad tale of my crippled dog, which I wrote about here in December 2017 http://www.oldtowncrier.com/2017/11/27/at-what-price-love/ The second attempt was a related puppy I got in the spring of 2018, who got bitten by one of my adults in a warning snap that unfortunately broke her upper jaw. It was surgically repaired and being only 8 weeks she recovered rapidly but the resulting facial deformity left one eye tipped inward and down affecting her vision and depth perception along with a severe under bite. It was a disheartening time. Because of the pandemic and quarantine, field trials and hunting tests for retrievers were cancelled and no one was doing anything with their retrievers. Without regularly seeing friends at training and events, it was easy to hide how short of breath I’d become, incapable of training or running dogs. Besides, I had no competitive dogs. All of mine were retired or crippled. When the chance to get this puppy came up just as the pandemic was ending, I had to take it. One of a dwindling number of a bloodline I’d developed and the last litter out of this particular female as she was almost nine years old. On the sire side were several of my favorite dogs. It was a once in a lifetime chance to get…

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