Friday, October 9, 2015

Delightful Discoveries on a Damp and Drippy Day

Another weekend of winds and rain was forecast with the arrival of Hurricane Joaquin, and sure enough Friday and Saturday were a washout. The temperatures dropped enough to put the heating on, and with plenty of snacks squirreled away, Kota, Rosie Lee and I hunkered down on the sofa to see the storm through.
 It was nice and cozy for most of Saturday but I soon got restless and thumbing through a local paper, I made a list of interesting places that I could visit on Sunday without getting too wet. I'd taken a few photos of the rain through the windows of the house but I was fed up with just sitting around. The cats were enjoying the heat with zero interest in getting their paws or fur wet so I felt no guilt at locking the cat flap while I was out, so I could ensure their safety and give me peace of mind. It felt weird to be wearing a sweatshirt, jacket and boots after a matter of hours experiencing 80 degree weather.
I drove out towards Rte 11, passing by fruit farms and pumpkin patches, usually filled with folk, but today completely empty. The wet skins of the orange pumpkins really popped from the green vegetation, they were going to be really clean and shiny for customers when the rain was done with them. There was hardly any traffic on the roads either so I could set my own pace, giving me a chance to see more around me.
This is a topiary elephant on the side of the road at Tom's Brook. It's been here a number of years and I've driven past it, never seeing it, but today, thanks to that local paper, I was looking out for it and saw it. Apparently it doesn't have a name or any political leaning but was created to try and hide a tree stump.
Further down, in Woodstock, I took a side road to find an old creamery building. It was easy to spot since it was pink and had old milk churns hanging above it, along with a multitude of bells and all things western. There was an old storage warehouse across the road with windows full of colored glass bottles and warnings alerting folk that they were being videoed. I was wondering if it was an old store of some sort and would be open on a nicer day, but today there was nobody about, only me walking in the fine rain, and I wondered if I was being watched for behind window drapes. But it was another finding chalked up from my list and my next stop was Edinburg, where I would find a 'must see' flea market.
There was an old caboose parked up outside, B and O 903778.
It looked like it had been used as a cafe area at one time since there was a deck attached to the outside and stacks of chairs, but the inside was untouched and in great condition.
Inside the flea market I walked around the 90 plus stalls, enjoying seeing items that seemed to be of actual interest rather than junk. I wandered around humming along to Goodbye My Love by The Glitter Band and other 70's pop songs. There was a fabulous collection of oil lamps so I purchased one, having been on the look out for one to tide me through the oncoming winter power outages. A much nicer light than battery powered LED flashlights or lanterns.
The staff were putting up Halloween decorations but I guessed they wouldn't be draping any lights around the stuffed animal heads on the walls; too high, judging by the thick spider webs draped across the horns and antlers.
Leaving the market and pleased with my purchase,and also feeling pretty sure that I'd return for another lamp, I sat in the car to look at my list. The next stop was Swover Creek Brewery. I'd never heard of the place and was grateful that I'd read that local paper or I'd still be in the dark. It looked like it was in the middle of nowhere and part of a farm, which sounded awesome so I headed in that direction.
I found it easily enough but it was definitely off the main roads, in an idyllic creek valley looking over crops of soft fruits and chickens running loose. There was a nice friendly and welcoming feel to the place as I made my way to the front of the house. A cockerel and his girlfriend greeted me from a table, even striking up a pose as I pointed my camera.
Inside I walked through a small shop area to a kitchen with a couple of stools by a breakfast bar and a small table where two cyclists were enjoying lunch with a pint. What a great place, I loved the set up and made myself at home immediately on one of the stools. Todd was pouring beer by the kitchen sink and explained about the 4 beers on tap.
It was impossible to pick just one so I went for the flight of all 4. The 4 glasses were served in a bun tray, what a wonderfully rustic idea, and every one was delicious. I was impressed that they hadn't followed the same route as so many other breweries who made the 'fashionable' fruit and sour beers, or stouts loaded with caramel and chocolate. I'd been drinking quite a few of these lately and was looking forward to savoring just a regular beer. Swover Creek delivered, with ales that reminded me of the traditional beers in England, that had little carbonation but plenty of flavor. The farm does produce a black raspberry beer and has some blackberry beer also almost ready but Todd emphasized that neither were too sweet or too fruity, so I'm looking forward to trying those. Hops are also grown on the property, a new crop that seems to be springing up in Virginia.
I could have sat there all afternoon in that cozy little space chatting with the others and slowly falling off my stool as the beer took hold, but I did have a car to drive and so when I was offered a look at the barn which was going to be the new tap room, I leaped at the chance.
The new tap room is right next to the house and is going to be open on the first weekend in November. They're not giving it the heavy industrial feel that some are currently going for, instead keeping it rustic and welcoming. It's a great space and I'm looking forward to returning when it's open.
Back in the kitchen Todd was filling my growler and reluctantly I had to bid everyone farewell and continue with my day without consuming more wonderful beer. They have a website, here. I did chuckle when I looked at it later and spotted a photo of some chickens in chairs, labeled the Eggcentric Egg and Chicken Ranch! Their chickens are certainly spoiled, having complete freedom, and are obviously very happy.
I walked out nodding to Chuck and Cluck, as I named them, who were still on the table. They both gave me a sidelong look as I passed. The air was filled with a wonderful mushroomy, earthy scent, and as I got to Stuart, Chuck gave me a very loud cock-a-doodle-doo farewell.
I carried on driving towards Strasburg, taking the back roads and noticing that the day was getting gloomier. I also realized that I had a pounding headache, a probable result from not having eaten since about 7:30 that morning, and it was now nearly 4. In Strasburg, I stopped at a place called Cristina's which always has the most amazing garden area to sit and eat in, filled with huge tropical looking plants.I'd never tried their food so this would be another first in my day.
I strolled in, noticing that it looked very cozy, but I wanted to eat on the road and get home. I looked at their menu, and chose a Grilled Beef Gorgonzola. All their food is sourced locally and when I got my sandwich after just a few minutes, I was delighted. It was delicious, so tasty that I didn't even think about taking a photo until I only had a few mouthfuls left, and I had no intention of stopping then to pull out my phone. It certainly hit the spot, washed down with their drip coffee which was also amazing. I'll be back for sure. Their website is here.
About 20 minutes from home the rain started again, getting heavier as I neared Marshall, but that just made it even nicer to get indoors and snuggle up with the cats. And to finish off the day nicely, as I drove slowly up the hill to Meadow House, a large flock of turkeys waddled across in front of me, then stopped on the crest of the hill, gabbling loudly.And I was absolutely sure that they were all welcoming me home!

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