Working Vacation

16/10/12 12:04 AM

Belle Grove

This weekend was the start for our week long vacation. We decided to start it off by spending Saturday and Sunday at the plantation. After a restful nightโ€™s sleep, I rose for a walk around the plantation. This time I ventured farther into the farm fields. The farmer that leases the fields planted corn and soybean this year. He has harvested the corn and I am sure will be harvesting the soy bean soon. I walked along the road way that once lead to the barns. The barns are long gone and all we have left are three silos. From what I understand, those will be coming down some time this winter to improve the view of the farm. After passing the silos, I walked along the wooded area between the farm field and the river. I could hear several birds calling to each other. I am not really good at identifying birds at the plantation with the exception of the osprey, eagles and buzzards that we see so often flying overhead. But I am sure as I spend more time there, I will be able to identify them better.

Just a little ways into the fields, I made a turn onto a farm road that headed towards the middle of the field. From what I understand, these dirt road ways are as old as the plantation and were used by the slaves and later the field hands as they worked the fields. I was told that there was a slave quarters that use to be located in the middle of the fields for the slaves that worked the fields. I haven’t been able to confirm it yet.

As I reached the road way that lead to the front gate, I could see the manor house and caretaker’s house in the distance. Suddenly above me I could hear the screaming of eagles. I looked up to see two bald eagles flying over at a very high distance. I wasn’t able to get a good picture of them, but you could see them riding the wind currents. It was just amazing.

Front Entry Gate

I made my way back to the front gate and stood in the shade of one of the trees located there. As I looked at it, I tried to image who may have sat under this very shade and what they may have been thinking. I looked towards the manor house and at the trees around the bowling green. One thing about this plantation is the beauty of its trees. I image that when John Moore, step-grandfather of James Madison named it Belle Grove, he must have had the same feeling.

Our trees haven’t really started to turn yet for fall, with the exception of one. But I am sure they will soon. I thought about that change and about when they would be green again. I could feel my heart jump as I realized the next time they were green again, we would be open for business. What a great way to start!

I made my way around through the house and stopped at the dining room window to see we had a “visitor” on the riverside of the house. A small groundhog was enjoying his morning salad of dandelions. Our yard is filled with them. Too bad our little “gardener” couldn’t eat more. One day, we will have a beautiful yard of green grass and our guest will have to find another location for breakfast. But for the time being, we are glad to see that we can provide him a hearty meal.

View from the Riverside Porch

Rappahannock River

After he scampered off, I walked out on to the riverside porch and sat down on the craved stone steps. The sun was bright and warm and it danced off the Rappahannock River as it passed by the plantation. The sun’s light was like thousands of little diamonds sparkling on the surface. The warmth of the light was just so relaxing. I tilled my head back and just sat there absorbing the light and feeling the rush of my busy life just melting away.

School House Bed and Breakfast

After spending another wonderful night at the plantation, we headed out on Sunday morning to Fredericksburg. We wanted to spend a night at our favorite Fredericksburg bed and breakfast, Schooler Houseย in the Historic Downtown. Andi, the innkeeper and her trusted side kick, Enzo makes staying there great joy. Enzo has been to “puppy boot camp” and had just returned over the last week so we wanted to welcome him home.

Central Rappahannock Regional Library in Fredericksburg

After we arrived, Brett crashed in the room to watch some football and nap while I head to a book sale I saw as we drove in. This sale had been going on over the weekend, so I was sure I missed some of the good books, but I was delighted to see that there were still some very nice selections still to be had. We have a library at Belle Grove that I will need to fill so book sales are always good. I was able to find fourteen books that covered literature and one autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. Most were printed in the 1940s and were in wonderful shape.

Eileen’s Bakery
Fredericksburg Virginia

After my purchase, I made a stop at a local bakery called Eileen’s Bakery. Andi had told me that it was one of the places we needed to stop at when we returned last time. I was so glad I did! The bakery is in an old church and has such a wonderful atmosphere. It serves both bakery items and has a small deli counter. I wanted to get a little something for Brett and me to have after our dinner, but when I arrived at the bakery case, I found it impossible to select just two. So I just ordered one of everything they had! When I got them back, I showed Brett the selections. He said we should just skip dinner and eat dessert.

Apricot Jam Bars
Eileen’s Bakery

Maple and Vanilla Shortbread
Eileen’s Bakery

Lemon Crinkle
Eileen’s Bakery

Coconut Macaroon
Eileen’s Bakery

Citrus Shortbread
Eileen’s Bakery

Raspberry Shortbread Swirl
Eileen’s Bakery

Vanilla Cupcake with Butter Cream Frosting
Eileen’s Bakery

Molasses Soy Glazed Pumpkin Cake
Eileen’s Bakery

But we didn’t. We headed over to the Capital Ale House on Caroline Street and enjoyed a wonderful meal. You may remember us talking about this place in two past postings.

Capital Ale House

It is a wonderful restaurant with a large selection of beers and ales. We started our meal off with a warm giant pretzel and stone ground spicy and sweet grain mustard. If it wasn’t bad manners I think I could have licked the bowl once the mustard was gone. It was so good! Brett had a bowl of macaroni and cheese with spinach added. It was such a great combination. I had a plate of fried pierogies with sour cream. In case you don’t know what a pierogie is it’s a dumpling similar to ravioli filled with mashed potatoes, cheese and sometimes onions. It is boiling to cook the dumplings then fried. I generally serve it with sautรฉed onions and real bacon bits. I didn’t get pictures of the dishes (sorry) because we started eating as soon as we got it. But take my word, it was awesome!

Stratford Hall
Montross, Virginia

Robert E. Lee
Stratford Hall

This morning, Brett and I got up and headed to the first of several meetings we have set up on our vacation. I know, it’s a vacation, but it these meetings are important too and it helps being able to do them during the week while we are off. The first meeting was at Stratford Hall with Jim. Stratford Hall is the home of the Lee Family and Robert E. Lee. It is located just 29 miles from Belle Grove. We talked with Jim about how we could work together with Stratford Hall and how we could be of benefit to each other. After our meeting Jim was gracious in showing us the gardens of Stratford Hall. I have been viewing gardens at different locations to get ideas for our landscaping and walking gardens at Belle Grove. We viewed three gardens today at Stratford. The first was the east gardens which were the formal boxwood walking garden and the cutting garden. Then we walked over to the west garden which is more of the working garden for the kitchen. I got a lot of really good ideas for our kitchen garden there.

View of the Boxwood Garden
Stratford Hall

View of the Boxwood Garden Gate
Stratford Hall

View of the Slave Quarters just inside the Cutting Garden
Stratford Hall

Stratford Hall

Stratford Hall

Stratford Hall

Stratford Hall

View of the Working Kitchen Garden
Stratford Hall

View of the Working Kitchen Garden
Stratford Hall

View of the Working Kitchen Garden
Stratford Hall

View of the Working Kitchen Garden
Stratford Hall

View of the Working Kitchen Garden
Stratford Hall

View of the Working Kitchen Garden
Stratford Hall

View of the Working Kitchen Garden
Stratford Hall

View of the Working Kitchen Garden
Stratford Hall

View of the Working Kitchen Garden
Stratford Hall

View of the Working Kitchen Garden
Stratford Hall

Stratford Hall

After our meeting at Stratford Hall, we headed over to Westmoreland Berry Farm to get more details on their vendor service for the local fruits, vegetables, jams, preserves and sauces they have. It is our goal at Belle Grove to use as much locally grown produce in our dishes as possible. We want our guest to be able to experience all that Virginia has to offer. We tried one of their samples they had on display, Apple Salsa. It was very spicy, but yet had a sweet under tone to it. It was very good.

Westmoreland Berry Farm

Westmoreland Berry Farm

From here, we headed back to Chesapeake to regroup and get ready for our trip and meetings in Richmond and Charlottesville on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. On Thursday we will celebrate our 26th wedding anniversary as well. Then it will be back to Belle Grove for the end of our glorious vacation on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. It may be something of a working vacation for us this year, but what a wonderful “job” it will become!

Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Year of the Virginia Historic Homes | 101 Comments »

101 Comments on “Working Vacation”

  1. Such gorgeous photos…Good luck!

  2. virginiaplantation Says:

    Thank you! It has been a wonderful week so far! Can’t wait to see what is to come in Richmond and Charlottesville!

  3. terry1954 Says:

    first off, have a wonderful anniversary!!!!! i loved the blog and all the photos, but my favorite will always remain any slave houses and quarters, since i love the slave era

  4. virginiaplantation Says:

    Thank you Terry! It was really cool to see the quarters at Stratford. They are very similar to ours.

  5. terry1954 Says:

    i love your place the best, but of course i am partial, lol

  6. virginiaplantation Says:


  7. Jennifer Says:

    That molasses pumpkin cake looked awesome!! Sounds like a fun but busy week ahead ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. virginiaplantation Says:

    It was very good! It is busy but so satisfying.

  9. vanbraman Says:

    Looks like you had a great vacation ;-).

  10. virginiaplantation Says:

    So far. We are still on it ๐Ÿ˜‰

  11. lessandragrl Says:

    No wonder you bought one of each kind at the bakery! Mouthwatering photos! Happy Anniversary to the two of you!

  12. virginiaplantation Says:

    Thank you! And I have to say each of them were worth the purchase, I think. Brett ate most of them. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  13. talkavino Says:

    Great pictures! And a vacation with the meetings set up? Not my dream vacation, but I get your point : )

  14. virginiaplantation Says:

    Thank you! I know meetings on a vacation. But really, it doesn’t seem like meeting for a job. We are going to places we love and getting to meet the people that are there all the time. Just like the meeting at Stratford Hall, we got done with the meeting and he walked us over to the gardens. There was no one else there but us. It was really quite special. And I still get to sleep in this week too. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Great pictures, as always. That groundhog will just find something else to munch on, once you cut back on the dandelions. (last year, we had a family of them get very fat on our garden). Perogi are one of my favorite foods. They are easy to make, but time-consuming. We still make them by hand for CHristmas Eve every year. For some reason, I wouldn’t have thought they’d be popular in “The South”, since most of the plantations were established by English, French or Scottish families.

  16. virginiaplantation Says:

    Thank you! The groundhog was just so cute. And I got to watch him for some time. I learned about Perogies from a friend from Ohio. I had never heard of them before since it wasn’t something my family made. But once I had heard of them, I met others who also ate them throughout the military. I even had a friend that made them too. I haven’t tried yet. But I do want to. It sounds like a wonderful tradition of making them each year. But this plantation will be one that will be eating them soon!

  17. Happy Anniversary!! the photo’s are beautiful alll those beautiful baked goods make me hungry. I guess you could call it a working vacation, but when you love what you do it’s a labor of love and both of you are obviously in love not just with each other but with your beautiful plantation.

  18. virginiaplantation Says:

    Thank you! They were so good to eat! I love the way you look at this vacation! A labor of love. Perfect!

  19. I would love to stop in next spring when visiting family in Fredericksburg. I bet it’s even better than any photo you could capture! Enjoy!

  20. virginiaplantation Says:

    We would love to have you in the spring! Fredericksburg is only 20 minutes away! We hope to be open (fingers crossed) by March or April. (I am hoping for March 16th – James Madison’s birthday) You are so right about the plantation. Pictures just are not enough. You have to see it in person.

  21. Jane Sadek Says:

    The taste of shortbread and the smell of boxwood. I love starting my days with you!

  22. virginiaplantation Says:

    Well, I love having you along with us! Hope everything is going better for you! Did you get your package?

  23. Jane Sadek Says:

    Yes I did. I thought I emailed you that it had arrived, but it came right in the middle of the worst of things, so I can’t be held accountable!

  24. virginiaplantation Says:

    No worries. I just wanted to make sure you got it. I hope it brighten the worst of things for you. Was it the right pattern?

  25. Jane Sadek Says:

    I don’t think it’s exactly the same, but you could set the table with it among other pieces of the pattern and wouldn’t notice the difference if you weren’t looking for it. It evokes all the joy of my grandmother’s chicken and dumplings and has the added bonus of being from you. Thanks so much.

  26. virginiaplantation Says:

    You are so welcome!

  27. Anne Bonney Says:

    Thanks again for more wonderful photos – of historic places and goodies!

  28. virginiaplantation Says:

    You are so welcome! There will be lots more to come after this weekend! We leave in the morning for the last part of our vacation in Richmond and Charlottesville!

  29. SallyK Says:

    Would the lawn have been completely manicured in the past as they are today? I would keep at least a part of the lawn “natural,” dandelions and all. You could add a dish of dandelion greens to your menu, adopt your groundhog, give him a name, make him part of the of Belle Grove experience!

  30. virginiaplantation Says:

    In the early periods, the lawn would not have been anything they would have worried about. I do know that there were gardens though. But by the time the Hooker’s (1930-1987) came along the grounds were manicured and perfect. The house use to be open for garden tours during the spring with the Hookers. I don’t know when Garden Week started in Virginia, but I think they were the first to be a part of it. I would love to keep it as is in some spaces. But up close to the house and the bowling green, we will have it manicured. The groundhog, right now lives in the Summer Kitchen. I have seen him run in and out of it. But his nesting there has done some damage to it. So we are going to have to relocate his home once we get the Summer Kitchen restored. We can’t lose it. It was built in 1790s. But I am sure we will find a place for him and he will end up with a name too. I mean we have the ospreys, James and Dolley, right? ๐Ÿ˜‰

  31. lucindalines Says:

    First you made me long to vacation there, then you made me hungry for those delicious looking sweets. Nice blog!!

  32. virginiaplantation Says:

    Thank you! We hope one day you will come to the plantation!

  33. uribg Says:

    Hi there,
    Thank you for “liking” my post “Changing Seasons” on
    You probably have not had frost yet!
    I enjoy reading about the plantation, the house, and the history. And also, Happy Anniversary!

  34. virginiaplantation Says:

    You are so welcome! We hope to see more of your blog! No frost here just yet. But i can wait for it. I am not a big winter person. Thank you! We hope to see you at the plantation one day!

  35. Oh my goodness. What a BEAUTIFUL place you have!! Thank you for also visiting my (very new) blog. I look forward to reading more of your posts. Just a gorgeous plantation and I love all of the historyโ€ฆ amazing!

  36. virginiaplantation Says:

    You are so welcome! Thank you for stopping by ours! We look forward to seeing more of your new blog! We also hope to see you one day at the plantation!

  37. Claire Says:

    That sounds like a great vacation! My parents just got back from a trip to Virginia a few days ago. Not sure exactly where – they stayed in a cabin and went to see the leaves changing. I bet they would love the Plantation too!

  38. Wow! If they stayed in a cabin and went to see the leaves, I bet they were somewhere on the west side in the Shenandoah area. Great place to stay at a cabin and see the leaves this time of year! I hope that all of you might consider stopping by the plantation to see our leaves.

  39. edremsrola Says:

    Such a delightful writing style – I feel as though I were there with you.

  40. virginiaplantation Says:

    Thank you! We love sharing the fun! We hope you will join us on this incredible journey!

  41. shofar Says:

    Enjoyed your vacation stories, photos of desserts I would have enjoyed, your ground hog- the working garden, would that provide greens, herbs, veggies for the plantation? For your special day coming up-

  42. virginiaplantation Says:

    Thank you! We aren’t done with the vacation just yet. The best is yet to come on Wednesday – Sunday! We are hoping to have some gardens at the plantation. But what we don’t have will come from local farmers like Westmoreland Berry Farm. Thank you!!

  43. belocchio Says:

    After three months with no rain here in the Lower Mainland (driest summer on record) we had three months of rain this week-end. But it didn’t matter. I was fay away having a wonderful week-end with you and Brett. He is a man after my own heart. Let’s just eat dessert! Everything about the week-end was absolutely delightful. And then the icing on the cake – your hedge hog. Thank you Virginia

  44. virginiaplantation Says:

    Thank you! I am glad you “joined” us on this wonderful weekend! But the best is yet to come Wednesday – Sunday! The dessert was so good! And I was thinking about your bunnies. Maybe you can introduce them to our Virginia groundhog. No name for him yet. But I am sure it will come soon.


  45. cspeno Says:

    Great photos. I enjoyed “traveling” along with you!

  46. virginiaplantation Says:

    Thank you! We enjoyed having you along! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  47. Gorgeous-looking trees; gorgeous views. Those cookies look delish!

  48. Thank you! Yes I love trees and couldn’t have picked a better place! The cookies were very good. At least the few I got! Brett ate most of them! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  49. Beautiful photos! I’m jealous of your vacation… this is my kinda of getaway!

  50. Thank you! Well I hope we can “take you along” with us as we enjoy this great adventure!

  51. Elen Grey Says:

    I could lose myself in this blog. Those trees were magnificent. I’ll bet they have a story all their own. Was that an Ent or Ent Wife I saw? ๐Ÿ˜‰

  52. Thank you! The trees at Belle Grove are wonderful! It true is a beautiful grove of trees! I think it would be an Ent Wife! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  53. Amy Says:

    Thank you for taking us along! Stratford Hall looks so much like a English village… beautiful! Will have to come and visit in the near future.

  54. You are so welcome! It was such a wonderful plantation. They are doing digs right now and finding more buildings that would show that this plantation really was a small working “town”. We hope to see you some day at our plantation!

  55. Amazing! Is Stratford Hall open to the public? It looks like a great place to visit!

  56. Yes, it is open to the public! It is open for the weekends right now since it is in the off season. But it will be open during the week about the time we open the plantation. Also we are working on a special agreement with Stratford for our guests!

  57. Those massive trees really caught my eyes, as well as those delicious-looking cookies! Wishing you a very happy anniversary, and thanks for stopping by my blog. ๐Ÿ™‚

  58. You are so welcome! We hope to see more of your blog! The trees are such a beautiful part of the plantation. Thank you! And the cookies were so good, at least the ones I got. Brett got most of them ๐Ÿ˜‰

  59. Thank you for stopping by! I must say you have some beautiful photos. My heart fluttered a bit when I saw your blog name- I have family in Chesapeake / Hampton Roads and have some long ties to Virginia. I couldn’t help but smile.

    I wish you the best of luck and would be happy to be included in your updates. Have a great night, thanks again! -christy

  60. You are so welcome! We look forward to seeing more of your blog! That is so cool that you have family and ties to Chesapeake and Virginia! Thank you! We hope to see you at the plantation one day!

  61. rugnis Says:


  62. Yes, I have to say it has been so far! I can’t wait to give an update in a few days!

  63. rugnis Says:

    sure, wait for update!!! ๐Ÿ™‚

  64. The first part is posted!

  65. radhika25 Says:

    Loved your cookies, and the history of the place.

  66. Thank you! I didn’t make them, but they were delish! We just love history and here you can’t throw a rock without hitting it! We hope to see you at the plantation some day!

  67. Beautiful pictures; everything! The ever changing trees will always be gorgeous! I especially loved those bakery delights!

  68. Thank you! The trees are something to see! They are what gave the plantation its name! The bakery delights were great, at least the ones I got to eat. Brett ate most of them ๐Ÿ˜‰

  69. Aelfgifu Says:

    Another great post and pics. Reading about your trips is very informative and I learn a little bit more, something new, about the history and landscapes of your neck of the woods each time I read a post.

  70. Thank you for stopping by! We love sharing all the trips and sights and sounds as we work towards our dream! We can’t wait to share the plantation and all its beauty in person! We hope that you might find your way to the plantation some day!

  71. Yelly Says:

    The photos are amazing. I do love going to old houses. I remember going to Stone Mountain in Georgia and looking the antebellum houses there. I was in old house heaven! Thanks for sharing the photos ๐Ÿ™‚

  72. Thank you! We have always had a soft spot for old homes. And the more history or connection to famous history it has be more in heaven we are. We are excited to have you come along with us on this adventure. We have so much more to do and so many more houses to see!

  73. colmel Says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to jump in my car and drive from Michigan as much as I do now – after reading your blog! I want, badly, to retrace your steps. I’m planning a trip there as soon as you let us know your wonderful plantation is open for guests! I’ll even bring a jar of my homemade blueberry jam!

  74. Okay you said the magic words! Homemade Blueberry Jam! We are now friends for life! I love blueberries! I just might have to give you the choice of breakfast items from our recipe box for that day! You are so sweet! We can’t wait to open and have you come see us! I will give you map of all the places we have gone;)

  75. shalady Says:

    wow what an endeavor. Thanks for liking my blog: thegateopensinward. Best of luck.

  76. You are so welcome! We look forward to seeing more of your blog! Thank you for stopping by ours! We hope to see you again sometime!

  77. Seems that your dreams are beginning to come alive. All the hard work you two have been doing, for quite some time now, is bearing fruit and the opening of your Bed and Breakfast is approaching. How fun.

    In Colorado groundhogs are unwelcome nuisances. They can do a lot of damage and take over your beautiful lawns and gardens with their holes and tunnels.

    Enjoy your vacation. Looks like you are starting off on a “sweet note” with all your baked goods ๐Ÿ˜€


  78. Leslie,

    Thank you so much for following along with us! It really does mean a lot to us! We really feel like we are starting to see some fruit! It is so cool! We just can’t wait to see what is around the next corner!

    This is our first groundhog and we aren’t sure yet how it may effect the lawn and gardens since we haven’t done the landscaping yet. But I am sure we will find out soon enough.

    Thank you! It has been a great joy so far. I can’t wait to post the results! And the bakery items were good!


  79. Stacy Lyn Says:

    I think your vacation sounds dreamy! Congratulations on 26 years! <3

  80. Thank you! It really has felt like a dream so far! I just don’t wait to wake up and find that I have to go back to my current job!

  81. I’d LOVE to go there one day…

  82. We would love to have you come to the plantation!!

  83. Thank you (:

  84. The bakery treats look phenomenal — I’m hungry! Cute picture of your “small” groundhog. The ones that Bailey and I find on our walks are the size of small dogs! ๐Ÿ™‚

  85. Thank you! They were delish! I get hungry looking at them too! Our little groundhog wasn’t small, like maybe an average cat. But he was cute… for now. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  86. tjsthings Says:

    Happy Anniversary.

  87. Aw, thank you!! ๐Ÿ™‚

  88. Wonderful, wonderful! If only all vacations could be like this!

  89. If all vacations could be like this, I would never go back to work! How are you doing? I miss “seeing” you! Hows things there?

  90. Am completely swamped over here! Parents are visiting and trying to get apply for jobs at the same time. That idea that I had that I would be less busy after the diss? I wish!

  91. I hear you! But I want you to know I thought of you during our vacation! Watch our blog for your special pic! Give me about three days to get to that part. It will make you smile!

  92. Oooh! Can’t wait!!!!

  93. What a great way to work! Looks like a wonderful trip.

  94. It truly has been a great way to work so far this week. I just wish I didn’t have to come back to my current job! But not much long! Just as soon as the zoning is done we will really be working!!

  95. Fay Moore Says:

    Amazing adventure you have undertaken here! I will love following your progress and add an overnight stay to my bucket list.

  96. Thank you! It really has been! I just posted a small Sneak Peak for all the places and things we have seen so far! We are so glad that you are joining us on this grand adventure and look forward to seeing you one day at the plantation!

  97. Reblogged this on Practically Historical.

  98. erichn Says:

    I enjoy the way you are writing. Makes it easy to imagine to be with you and see what you experience. Your post will be an inspiration for my own blog. Unfortunately I can’t see any of your photos… where did they go?

  99. Thank you so much! It really means a lot to us! I hope to see and read more of your blog too!

    I made a mistake. I was trying to clear some space for more pictures and I deleted all of the old ones from the media library thinking it wouldn’t hurt the blogs. I was wrong. I am slowly working on replacing them.

  100. kiwiskan Says:

    For some reason your pictures are just not showing up for me…

  101. I am sorry, just after this post, I made the mistake and deleted my media library. I will be replacing them this weekend as I reorganize the blog. We have been really busy for the past two weeks and I hadn’t had the chance to fix it yet. Please come back again. They will be there soon. My most recent post do have pictures. Thank you so much.