Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Copper Fox

Rick Wasmund and his wife own and operate the Copper Fox Distillery in Sperryville, Virginia, about 10 miles east and about 2500 feet below the Skyline Drive. Rick thought he wanted to be a distiller so he visited every distillery he could get to in the United States and then went to Scotland, ending up with an internship at a distillery.  He came back and bought an existing distillery, moved it and put his mark on it.  Copper Fox malts and kilns all of their grains.  Malting is the process of allowing grain to start to sprout, under carefully controlled conditions - doing this converts the starch in the grain to maltose - hence malt whiskey.  It is the only distillery in the United States that hand malts it's own grain, all of the others buy it already malted.  They grain is dried in a wood fired kiln and smoked with apple and cherry wood (a lot of Scottish distillers use peat smoke.)  The operation is in an old apple cider mill and the fermentation tanks are stainless steel vats recycled from the previous tenant. The distilling side uses pot stills, with at least double distillation.  Rube Goldberg would be proud of the configuration of equipment. The staff is young and creative.  The product is aged onsite, in about 300 full size barrels (Kentucky put 1.2-million barrels of bourbon into aging in 2013.)  They experiment with hardwood chips in the barrels for color and flavor.  They offer a couple of single malts, a rye, white spirit with age it at home micro barrel kits, a corn based American whiskey that does not meet the legal definition to be labeled as bourbon because of the innovative aging, and recently introduced an Anise based gin.  I sampled the gin and one of the single malts and bought two of the single malts.  The one I have opened is the younger and less expensive of the two single malts.  It is smokey and very woody - very-very woody.  It has a little bite and might benefit from a more time in the barrel - but it is an interesting sip and I would recommend it.  I sampled the other single malt at the distillery - it is aged in used wine barrels and was significantly smoother - I have a bottle of that to open one day. Based on the sample it is very good. I am a fan of juniper based gin - so I skipped the gin. The tour is free, they offer up to three 1/2 ounce samples, and sell the products on site.  The bourbon like whiskey sold out, they are expecting a new release in August, I will need to make another trip out to try that. 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


Catoctin Creek distillery in Purcellville, VA
This is one of the two distilleries that we visited this past weekend.  The idea, was hatched in traffic, while commuting from the far outer burbs into DC (a nasty commute on a good day.)  Hubby went to his wife with this great idea, and she told him to come back with a business plan.  He did, she read it and it was good, very good.  She is an engineer by trade and it shows.  The place is neat and orderly, with a place for everything clearly planned.  They make a rye, bottling two versions, a gin, and three brandies, pear, peach and grape.  I will sample the pear sometime soon.  The rye is aged a minimum of two years, with select barrels set aside for an extra year.  This bottle is the three year.  It is good rye, not my favorite spirit, but well made. It is smooth, with a smokey finish. The stills are a hybrid, pot-column still.  The mash is heated in the bottom like a pot still, then rises through a column still.  Very technical, in keeping with the character of the owners.  It is a modest operation producing something like 150 gallons of finished product a week.  They recently moved into downtown, into a building that housed a Buick Dealership for 70 years. They do a nice tour and have a very nice tasting room.  

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Bear Video

I think I have made peace with YouTube, here is the bear video.  This was 250 feet from the hotel room we spent Saturday night in.

A night above the clouds

I spent most of the last 36 hours, sort of off the web.  We took a long weekend (not over yet) and went to the Skyline Drive and Shenandoah Valley area.  The trip was unstructured, with a few anchor points we wanted to see, along with whatever our paths crossed.  No hotel reservations were made.  Saturday we stopped at a hotel above the clouds in the mountains for lunch.  We asked, they had a room and plans were made for a night above the clouds.  We had time for the first of two distillery tours Saturday afternoon at Copper Fox.  Just before lunch we passed a small bear, eating along the stone wall on the side of the road, Saturday evening, 250 feet past our hotel we saw another young bear foraging (picture above, I have a nice video clip, blogger and I don't get along well enough for the video at the moment.) This morning there were two more bears, these mature adults, one crossed the road in front of us, and the other was climbing a rock face and munching on blackberries on the side of the road.  Amazing four bears in 24 hours. We left the National Park afternoon today and stopped for our second distillery tour of the weekend at Catocin Creek in Perceville, VA.  Interesting stuff, a classmate of mine asked me to partner with him on a distillery 15 years ago, I think I would have enjoyed it.  

I don't know who that man is in the pictures, remember DG is never appears on this blog.  

Friday, July 25, 2014

What is your favorite bird

Keeping backyard chickens is becoming quite fashionable in the USA. I would have a hard time keeping them in my backyard,  120 Sq ft of glass enclosed concrete on the third floor.  They do seem kind of simple minded,  maybe we should elect a few to Congress. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


This is what your backyard might look like, if you had a few billion dollars and a full time staff of gardeners, can you imagine how fun it would be hiring the garden boys! I grew up with an unusual back yard. In the middle of World War II my Grandfather bought an 80 acre farm about 60 miles north of Detroit.  It was cheap, it was paid for shortly after the War, not the best farm land but he really didn't care.  He was looking for a place outside of the city to keep bees.  In the 1950's my parents moved to the farm, followed a couple of years later by my Grandparents.  I was born while my parents lived on the farm.  My Grandfather farmed a few acres of the farm for a few years, mostly tomatoes and strawberries. But for the most part it was his dream back yard.  30 acres of meadows and 50 acres of trees.  Eventually there were two homes, a pond and over 5 acres of grass to be mowed. My Grandfather's health failed when I was a teenager, and I assumed mowing duties, a riding mower and five acres to be cut all summer.  I hate mowing grass, I don't care if I ever have a back yard again, unless I can hire the lawn-boys.  

Monday, July 21, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving

I called my parents yesterday.  Mom answered the phone.  She thought it was Thanksgiving and wanted to know when I would be arriving.  I assured I would be there for Thanksgiving.

Sunday, July 20, 2014


Fluffy sheep are a recurring theme in my life.  We fell in love with the sight of a meadow full of sheep on a week in Yorkshire 7 years ago.  They appear so content and reassuring,  and properly cooked taste wonderful.  The US does not have enough sheep. We should start a campaign to expand sheep farming in the country.  I bet someone in DC would give me a grant for that.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Strawberry pie

I still have a pastry phobia. I am trying to overcome it by exposure.  In other words to get over it by making pastry until I feel comfortable. Hubby went shopping yesterday and brought home a huge box of tasty strawberries.  So I made a strawberry pie.  A basic butter pastry,  one quarter pound of butter,  tablespoon of sugar, pinch of salt, 1.25 cups of flour. Buzz it in the food processor.  Add a couple of tablespoons of cold water and roll it out.  Bake at 375 for 20 minutes.  For the glaze,  clean and chop about a cup of strawberries,  add half a cup of sugar, half a cup of rum, and a couple of tablespoons of corn starch. Cook over medium heat. Clean and half another 2 cups of strawberries and toss with powdered sugar. Chill the glaze and the pie shell. Mix the fresh strawberries in the glaze and fill the pie shell.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

10 ways to reduce stress

  1. Keep it all in perspective, if nothing ate you today, you had a good day
  2. Laugh, there is humor in almost everything 
  3. Use your vacation days, no one has ever sat on their deathbed and said, "I wish I had worked more." 
  4. Get off the expressway, drive the back roads 
  5. Do the important things first, put the rest in perspective
  6. Decide what you will never do, and cross it off the list 
  7.  Do your best and forget about trying to please others 
  8. Don't worry about what other's think of you, most of the time they don't think about you
  9. Tell the truth, it is easier then keeping track of the lies 
  10. Love yourself 

Monday, July 14, 2014

If You've Seen One Fall

Back when I was in High School my parents and crazy cousin Bill and one of his wives, rented a plane a few to Niagara Falls for a weekend.  There are two sets of waterfalls at Niagara, nice ones on the American side, and spectacular ones on the Canadian side.  They landed in the US, looked at the American Falls and were headed for the bridge to Canada when Bill's wife of the day spied a shopping mall.  She suggested they stop and shop.  They said, well we haven't seen the Canadian falls, to which she said, if you've seen one fall, you've seen them all.  She didn't last long, as I recall she is the one who received a box of cow manure with divorcee papers attached for Christmas one year.  

This picture if of the smaller, upper falls at Lineville Falls in North Carolina.  The larger lower falls are behind me.  They are a steep half mile hike from the visitors center.  I did reasonably well, until the last 100 yards of the trail going back to the car, then there was the third fall, I stepped on something, tuned an ankle and went down in a heap.  Just superficial damages.  Onward! 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

A little place in the mountains

We came to North Carolina to see a vacation house in the mountains.  What do you think?  A little large I fear. Anderson was not home. 

This is Biltmore, the Vanderbilt estate in Asheville.  It was built in the late 1800's. Very much an American Dowton Abbey.  It is owned by Anderson Cooper ' s mothers family. 

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Local Brew

I am in Asheville North Carolina to look at a house.  It took three hours to drive the first 100 miles out of DC this morning.  The dinner beverage was made here in town.  Very good.  I really needed that after 9.5 hours behind the wheel. 

Friday, July 11, 2014

March to the beat of your drummer

I would love to be a musician,  but I can't read music.  I tried to learn for a couple of years.  I played the tuba in middle school.  But musical notes all look the same.  One step up or down the funny lines, they all look the same to my brain.  But they don't all sound the same.  I had to mark up the score, or I was hopeless.  Teaching music to the musically handicapped was how the band master described it. I don't known who was more relieved, him or I when I called it quits.

I do enjoy music, but perhaps to the beat of my personal drummer. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Le Tour

Photo: Only 30 km to go and the yellow jersey group is about to come across to the four remaining leaders. 

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A seulement 30 km de l'arrivée, Le groupe maillot jaune rattrape les 4 derniers échappés. 

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I love riding bikes, and have developed a real love of watching professional cycle racing.  The Tour de France is the highlight of my summer, with most of the worlds best riders, spectacular scenery, and exciting competition. Someday I will stand on the side of a French road and watch 200 of the best of the best roll by. Yesterday's route was an unusual challenge with several segments on cobblestone roads.  The Tour rides on cobblestones every year, the finish in Paris is on a cobbled street.  The weather yesterday was rainy and miserable, even worse than my ride home from the office yesterday.  There were a lot of falls. Chris Froome, defending champion, (last year's winner) abandoned the race after numerous falls over two days.  The post race interviews were punctuated with  complaints about the cobblestone sections and calls to the organizers to not repeat the cobblestone sections - citing that Froome had been injured and had to withdraw.  They all seemed to miss one very important point, his falls and injuries happened on paved roads, not on the cobbles.  Many-many riders fell while racing on very wet and slippery streets.  Streets that were very difficult to ride on.  A few falls occurred on the cobbles, as always happens,  but for the most part the riders were cautious on the cobbles. What would have made yesterday safer, would not have been to bypass the challenge of the cobbles, but for the riders to agree to ride but not race in the very wet - very dangerous conditions.  Tradition is that the race goes on in all weather, they have ridden up mountains in the snow. But nothing stops the riders from all agreeing that they will not challenge one another today.  It happens, usually the day after a serious or fatal accident (yes people die in this race.) Why didn't the riders agree yesterday that it was too wet and dangerous to race, and agree to ride the course with caution and dignity leaving the racing for another day, on safer roads, with more riders healthy and able to participate.  I wish Froome a fast and complete recovery, but the cobbles were not the cause of his withdrawal from the race.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014


My crazy uncle owned a boat when I was growing up and a wild ride on the Lake Orion, if the boat would start, and if we could pump all of the water out was the highlight of a summer visit.  I've never owned a boat, a whole in the water into which you pour money.  My X refused to let me own one, I can swim, X couldn't, apparently I was not trusted.  When I lived in Hotterville, we were miles from water to boat on.  I keep looking at the Potomac and thinking I should own a boat someday.  Something small, and dry.  

Monday, July 07, 2014


I have a pastry phobia, it is rooted in deep criticism of my early attempts. Mom could be quite critical when I had made a mess of her kitchen. For years I avoided making pastry, then for years I faked it with Pillsbury from the dairy case. Last summer I tired once, with the simple butter pastry, a couple of weeks ago I made a cherry pie, this week a blueberry tart.  I still have rolling fears, and need to vacuum the kitchen floor when I am finished - even if the floor is clean. This appears to have worked.  It came out of the mold easily and was nice a flaky. J liked it, but he had never met a pastry he didn't like. I need to find a more judgmental audience, but not mom.      

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Lunch View

Once the Tour stage finished yesterday, it was time to get out of the house for a couple of hours - we went out for a walk and lunch.  Nice lunch, nothing spectacular, but a nice view.  The parking lot across the street and the marina are the Old Dominion Boat Club at the foot of King Street in Alexandria.  The boat club has been there 130  years.  There has been an ongoing debate with the city about drainage and access to the waterfront.  After a couple of decades of debate, they have reached an agreement to sell the property to the city, for a nice chunk of cash and a piece of waterfront property 500 feet south of the current location. They clubhouse and docks will be moving.  The old parking lot will be incorporated into an adjoining park and the city will fix a drainage problem that causes local flooding when heavy rain and high tide happen at the same time.  And the city will be able to open up a wonderful section of waterfront at the end of King Street.  When the city wants to buy property the question is not, can they buy it, but how much will they pay for it.  30 years ago a wise man taught me to negotiate not litigate this issue.  

Thursday, July 03, 2014


Stop, don't go there, or stop, don't do that anymore.  I was riding to work the other morning and decided to take a picture of the fireworks set up for A Capital Fourth, and came up against a fence. down along the reflecting pond between the World War II memorial and the Lincoln Memorial, they have set up the fireworks, and the path is fenced off with a STOP.  

A comment on Facebook this morning brought me to one of my other favorite Stops, stop doing that.  Five and half years ago I accidentally left my alarm clock off one morning.  I woke up in a panic and then realized that I would make it to the office on time without being shaken from my slumber.  Over the next few days, I started leaving my clock off, and to my great surprise I was making it to the office on time.  And I was sleeping better and feeling better about waking up.  Last year I set my clock three or four times, when I had an especially early meeting or flight..  So, STOP alarming yourself awake each morning.  The world won't come to an end.  

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Getting Noticed

Few things will get you noticed in Old Town Alexandria, we are so use to seeing politicians, power brokers and minor celebrities that they get bumped into without being noticed.  But the little boat at the end of the pier is getting noticed. I saw her yesterday evening on my bike ride home and went back this morning for a closer look and a picture.  She was built in 2007 and christened Mr Terrible, she changed hands a couple of years ago and was renamed Usher.  The registered owner is a holding company, you have to pay a fee to access the database that will tell you who owns the holding company, and I am not that curious.  She is about 150 feet long, cruises at 20 knots,  has a crew of about half a dozen and accommodates 10 or 12 guests in comfort. She is available for charter out of Florida and the Caribbean for $175,000, plus expenses, per week. I wonder how many gallons to the mile? It is a way to arrive in style and get noticed and I am due for a real vacation.