Country-fied

No, that’s not “country fried” (but I guess you could say that).

Franklin County, our home for the past year and a half, is nothing like the harried and fast-paced Northern Virginia we came from. One of our kids (the one who just finished college and will be moving to a city next week) is not amused. The other one is much more enchanted with our new-ish home.

Maybe he had a hard semester, but he talked a lot over winter break about how peaceful it is out here. Like his mother, he appreciates the cows and tractors. He grew a beard, which startled his grandfather enough to make that gentleman exclaim that he looks just like a native of our neighboring state, known for its country roads and coal industry.

And then, when his car was pretty much flattened in October by a hit-and-run (thankfully, without him in it), he put his sights on a vehicle that would be harder to crunch, and he headed back to college last week in a brand new (to him) truck. He said that he likes driving it around here because when he drives it, “more people wave.” He is definitely fitting in.

Dark Side

A few weeks ago, when I posted about running around in the woods, one of my friends commented that I sure made it look enticing out here in the country. And I’m grateful because that’s exactly my point: I really want you all to see how amazing it is out here in Franklin County.

But of course not every day here is full of wonder. And I’m not just talking about the days you get stuck driving behind this guy.

Jim jokes that our cat feels like every time he looks out the window he sees something terrifying. I get that sometimes (raccoon on the porch? Hard pass on that one).

There’s a lot of adjustment moving to a new spot. We lived in the busy DC suburbs for nearly 30 years (even longer for me), and when you leave that behind as a middle-aged person, you also leave behind a real comfort zone.

And it’s eye-popping to explore a new place, but sometimes, just sometimes, you start to wonder if you’re going to be able to find a spot to fit in. That’s where I’ve been for a couple of weeks.

So dudes, wait until you hear some of the stories about trying to find folks to hang out with. And of course, I will still try to entice those nice people I know (like you, Larry!) to come here too.

Riding that Bobbing Cow

Last post about our recent bovine visitor, I promise!

When we discovered on Friday that a drowned cow had somehow attached itself to the underside of our dock, I reached for a common resource: the crowd-sourcing answers on Facebook. I first asked the Smith Mountain Lake resident’s group:

Then I shared the post with my friends to get their take on the whole thing. And did I! It received 100 comments, many of which expressed sympathy for the cow or concern about the situation, but listen, my friends are funny. People uploaded a number of à propos GIFs, including the Jed Clampett “What in tarnation?” from Lorenda.

As well as a link to that Top Gear episode where the fellas were visiting the American south and that wag Jeremy Clarkson tied a dead cow to the top of his car, from Chris L.

Also, a lot of commentary:

“You like your steaks REALLY rare,” observed Michael H.

“Did the cow know you don’t even eat meat??” – Ilham, who knows me well.

“If this is what happens when you move out of [your former neighborhood], we’ll be staying here forever” – former neighbor Dan S., seconded by Kristin S.’s “You got that right.”

“Hope you get to moooove it soon” – Cathy C.

“VA more TX than TX?” – from native Texan Seán C.

“That’s not exactly the right way to marinate beef.” – Derek T.

“Anne, you don’t live in Fairfax anymore, do you? I need to keep up better.” – Karen T.

“Holy cow!” – Robin M.

“So, you’re saying he moooo-ved along? Can’t see hide nor hair of him? I’m milking this for all it’s worth. It’s udderly awful. We all hope she has moseyed along and she won’t be ‘herd’ from again. You made it seem very amoosing, though!” – Beth H., who was clearly bovinely inspired, with the cow as her muuuuuse.

“Rich ecosystem in your lake there!” observed science-minded Ilse

“Should you decide to form a bluegrass band, Boathouse Buzzards would be a great name.” – Danny C.


“Anne you get instant country street cred if you form a bluegrass band,” Tosh, who added, “Welcome to the country!”

And there was some on-point advice:

“If you get an invitation to the Appalachian Power hamburger cookout, I suggest you politely decline.” – also Danny C.

“Dear James Reynolds, You may want to cross ‘Tri-County Lake Administration’ off the list of potential summer employers” – concerned auntie Sarah E.

Most of the neighbors in the lake’s residents’ group had sincere (and ultimately, very helpful!) suggestions, but also some wit:

Terry B. echoed Jim’s preferred solution to the dilemma: “Call in the catfish.”

“BBQ?” offered Bob T.

“Go heavy on the smoke flavor,” advised Jim C. He got more specific: “When you grind your hamburger you mix in some country sausage to hide the flavor, as do many deer hunters when they grind venisonburger- 😎

And upon learning that the cow had moved on: “Well, phooey. I was going to suggest dynamite, Anne.” – Betsy A., who, as part of Lake Writers, has an eye for a plot twist.

Real heroes don’t wear capes.

But Cows CAN Swim!

I know they can, I looked it up.

The question came up on Friday, when I was out of town and Jim texted me that there was a dead cow floating next to our dock.

We are very fortunate to live along the shoreline of Smith Mountain Lake, where most of the houses feature a dock. The problem is, occasionally a deceased member of the wildlife community comes along to get stuck on the docks, and I guess that is what happened to Mr. Cow.

What do you do about a bobbing cow? The first thing we did was to put in a report to Appalachian Electric Power, the utility that controls the hydroelectric dam that formed Smith Mountain Lake. Based on some good advice I received when I crowd-sourced the question to the Smith Mountain Lake Residents page on Facebook, I also made a call this morning to the Tri-Counties Lake Administration, which works with AEP to police the debris on the lake. And sure enough, this afternoon, I got a phone call from a gentleman at AEP to make sure it was gone.

I walked down and saw no evidence of our visitor, either visual or olfactory, so my fingers are crossed that he has been assisted in his journey to greener pastures. Even the buzzards are no longer lurking.

As I am not a fisherman, I’m kind of hoping this is the closest encounter I have with nautical wildlife for a good long time.

A New Sound of Spring

Spring is definitely trying to beat back Winter around here. We have daffodils galore in our yard.

Out in the meadows, you can see new cows, of the youthful variety. (They are precious!) The flowering trees are flowering, and my runny nose will back that up.

But yesterday, the temperature climbed above 70 for the first time in quite awhile. I went for a walk in our neighborhood and was startled to hear a loud engine passing me. Two of my neighbors had dusted off their cycles, and their his-n-hers Harleys roared off down the road.

They weren’t alone. All day yesterday, all along BT Washington Highway, you could see and hear motorcyclists alone or in groups, out enjoying the blue sky and warm air.

But my favorite part of this spring awakening happened this morning. I commented on all the bikes during weights class at the gym, and Denise spoke up (she is the new lady in our class who who wears well-coordinated workout gear and a Yankees ball cap over her long blonde ponytail. Slender and well, elegant, even at 6:30 am, she looks like she would be at home in any gym in the Washington, DC — or any similarly urban — area). “Yeah,” Denise agreed. “I took my bike out yesterday.”

Spring at the lake is going to be pretty cool.

Five Intentional Travel Tips (with Pictures!)

I don’t do a whole lot of traveling, and maybe I should, because I just got back from a great trip with our eldest child. Here’s the experience boiled down to a couple of quick thoughts:

Keep open to new ideas

For her last spring break of college, our daughter suggested that the two of us take a trip to Sedona, Arizona. I didn’t know much about the destination but we got started researching and it turns out that it’s a phenomenal place. If you can imagine the nicest person you know, and then imagine that person is a place, that’s Sedona.

Keep up the best you can

My girl is 22. She’s a fit little mountain goat when it comes to climbing around on trails. Me, not so much. But I jumped in on those hikes and was rewarded by beautiful scenery and very fine company.

I did not, however, even try to keep up with a 22-year-old when it came to prickly pear margaritas. I did the driving.

Keep an eye on the weather

We went to the Grand Canyon. It was cold. Like, slushy roads and snowballs cold. Boy, I know those tourists at the canyon were surprised because we sure were, too. And by the way, this challenged my expectations of what “Arizona weather” was all about. I was grateful for the hat I’d popped into my bag at the last minute.

Serendipity is everywhere

As I was flying through Charlotte, NC, on the way out to the Phoenix SkyPort, our son happened to be flying through on his way home to Roanoke. We caught up for just a minute right there at the airport. (Okay, I stalked him a little.) But to have a day where one runs into both of one’s kids in airports thousands of miles apart? Magic.

Even the bad stuff isn’t all that bad

On the flight home, my journey took me through Philadelphia instead of Charlotte (one does not simply fly directly to Roanoke). The plan was to fly out and land in Roanoke in time for dinner with the husband and that younger college kid mentioned above.

But then the flight crew was late.

And the weather went south.

We sat on the tarmac for 2-1/2 hours before the plane rolled back to the gate and the flight was cancelled. By the time we got off the plane and were wiggled into flights for the next morning — none of which were heading to Roanoke (one does not simply fly directly to Roanoke) — it was after midnight. I don’t know Philly. I didn’t know where to go for hotel with a shuttle that would get me back to the airport by 6:30 for my early flight to Charlottesville, VA. So I elected to stay overnight at the airport.

It’s quiet at 2:30 am outside security.
Good morning, Philadelphia!

I don’t recommend it if you can help it. But I did learn that the security screening opened up at 4:30 am (and the lines are much shorter!), which allows a bit of a nap at the gate before the breakfast spots start opening. Au Bon Pain never tasted so good.

The flight to Charlottesville’s (posh) airport was blissfully short and I was met by a husband who drove the extra hour to come pick me up. And even though they aren’t made of red rock, our mountains never looked so welcoming.

While I was away, the flowers had started blooming and I’m pretty sure there are some baby cows out there in the fields. It’s nice to come home to something that looks spring-y and new.

A Bovine Mystery

I need to talk to a farmer. Because I have questions.

I went out for a lovely walk on Sunday morning and happened to snap a picture of this peaceful field because it looked so frosty and picturesque.

But then, when Jim and I drove by just a couple of hours later, the view had gotten even more interesting.

This happens ALL THE TIME. I know that people move herds around, but I simply can’t understand how they move ALL THOSE COWS around from pasture to pasture. I have seen cows move. They’re neither fast nor organized, and in fact the only time I’ve seen a cow move quickly is when someone wanted to organize him back into a pasture from which he’d escaped.

Me: “Jim, HOW DO THEY DO IT?”

Jim: “I don’t know, Anne. I just don’t know.”

I really need a go-to person with bovine knowledge because this is, I think, one of the great questions.