The Sweet Family in 2006

This site is designed for 800 x 600 resolution. If you are using a higher resolution monitor,
these pages may display better if you narrow your window to around 800px.

We left our 2005 report with the transfer of our business to David and Jennifer Hearn. I spent the first week of January 2006 in Bethesda, helping them get up to speed with shipping from the new location. The top photo at right shows me in the new warehouse, working on an order. It was kind of a hectic week but I don’t think our customers noticed much difference in service. After getting home the mild winter weather allowed me to get some “fall” yard work done that had been postponed by the business dealings. I also finished the deck on our new porch and we opened our sugar trees a couple of weeks early as well.

Syrup making occupied us through February with a break for a quick trip to Richmond for a luncheon and tour of The Richmond Times Dispatch printing plant. It is fascinating to see the operations of a huge daily paper. Sadly they would not permit photography in the plant. In March Char went to a four-day chamber music retreat at Garth Newel Music Center near Hot Springs. The second photo at right shows her in the concert that closed this event on 12 March. Meanwhile, I occupied myself trying to open new cave entrances at the annual digging weekend with the Butler Cave Conservation Society. Often significant caves have been opened up by these efforts but not this year.

Also in March, the State Corporation Commission came to Monterey to hold hearings on the proposed industrial wind project in Highland County. These were held in the school gymnasium to accommodate crowds and lasted for two days, in which time the hearing examiner heard impassioned testimony from many citizens, the vast majority of whom are opposed to the industrialization of our mountain ridges. The small photo at right shows the project applicants consulting with their attorney during a break in the hearings. Click on the photo to open a full report.

March snow
Covington Orchestra

March went out like a lion, with a heavy snow on the 25TH, which happened to be the day we needed to make a trip to Lexington. The top photo at left shows US 220 on Rocky Ridge, a few miles south of Mustoe. Spring was in the air a week later as I decided to go to a canoe race for the first time in ten years. I enjoyed my drive to Webster Springs, WV, but found the race had been canceled when the course designer failed to show up. I could have run the river but it had become colder and blustery by that time so I settled for driving a different route home, which took me along the Williams River. It looks like a wonderful river but needed a bit more water for a run. The next day we traveled to Covington for the Allegheny Highlands Orchestra spring concert. Char is at left center with her violin in the second photo at left.

Clarence had been sick with a sinus infection on and off since January. We would treat it with antibiotics and clear it up, then a week or two later it returned. After a few rounds of this we took him to the veterinary hospital at VPI in Blacksburg and found that he had an inoperable cancer in his nasal passages. He died on 15 April. He is sorely missed by both of us but especially by Char as he is no longer here to help her with her knitting.

Char greatly enjoys having daughter Kathy living nearby. Kathy comes up fairly often and Char has made several trips to Roanoke to see her. One special trip was in March to celebrate Kathy’s xxth birthday. [I won’t give it away.] Kathy’s sisters also came in for the event. At right is Char with Stephanie, Kathy, and Beverly on 19 March. A much bigger family event took place on 9 June, as granddaughter Lynne Stanley was married in Lancaster, PA. Char went up for a shower at the end of April and again in June for the wedding itself. The second photo at right shows Char with grandchildren Kevin and Julia Brondani, all dressed up for the wedding. See photo of the bride and family below.

Meanwhile, my spring was spent closer to home, in fact mostly at home. I had firewood to cut and roads to repair — all of the usual farm chores. Without the business to run, I also undertook a more extensive spraying program to control exotic-invasive plants, primarily autumn olive, barberry, and multiflora rose, as well as thistles in the hay fields. I also finished the roof on our cabin porch and rebuilt the rail fence that runs along the road up to the house. The bottom photo at right shows this project underway. The near end is completed while in the distance the old section is almost obscured by the tall grass.

The Stanley family: Lynne Stanley Bertz and Ryan Bertz at center, Lynne’s parents Charlie and Beverly at left, and brothers Curt and Doug at right.

June is normally hay season and I was in the hayfields while Char was in Pennsylvania. This is one farm chore that dominates — when the grass is ready and the weather is right, everything else is set aside. We were really lucky on the weather this year as we finished the first cutting within two weeks and got all of it in the dry with no losses. The photo below shows me ranking bales on the wagon as our neighbor, Roy Dever, drives the tractor and baler.

The end of June brought four days of court hearings on the wind turbines. We lost in the local court but the Supreme Court has agreed to hear it on appeal, sometime in 2007. Spraying and mowing seemed to take up much of July and August, including making second-cutting hay. Also in August I was crawling around under the house and poking holes in walls to install category 5 phone wiring in preparation for upgrading our internet access.

September finally brought completion of the long-running porch project. I built steps, railing, and a storage closet — and should not have to talk about this again. Click on the small photo at left to get back to the porch page. In October I removed a dilapidated shed that was once a springhouse, which we used as a garden shed. It was beyond reclamation. The garden stuff is now in the section of the tractor shed that had been designed for it.

On 28 October I made a trip to Sinnett Cave to celebrate 50 years of caving. Click on the third photo at left to open a photo-diary of this trip. My first non-commercial caving trip had been to Sinnett on 28 October 1956. Six friends joined me this time, including Bill Gordon, who was one of my caving buddies at UVa from 1956 to 1960, and George Deike and Nevin Davis, whom I met at the Penn State Nittany Grotto in 1960.

Grapevine dig

Also in October I participated in a cave dig with several local friends, including Phil Lucas, and my long-time friend Rick Rigg [standing, at right] who now lives in Idaho. The second photo shows several of our small herd of cattle taking in some early-winter rays. Not part of any story — I just wanted to throw in the photo.

I made several trips to Bethesda, MD, to help my cousin, Polly Wagner, clear out 50 years of accumulation in her house so she could move to a retirement home. It was a daunting task. I was glad to be able to provide a small measure of help.

At the end of October I made a trip to Richmond for more testimony before the State Corporation Commission. The SCC will make its decision on our wind project in the spring of 2007, then the Supreme Court will take it up later in the year.

On 4 November Char suffered a small stroke. Neither of us were quite sure what was happening but I took her to the local hospital in Hot Springs, where they did some tests, then whisked her off to Roanoke for further study. The main symptom was numbness on the right side which came and went. They finally tracked down the source. Her prognosis is for full recovery and that seems to be playing out. The main remnant symptom is that she tires easily. She had recovered enough to play in her fall concert on 19 November but it was a near thing.

This happened on a Saturday, naturally, so medical attention beyond the ER was delayed. When it became clear she would be in hospital on election day, I became enmeshed in the intricacies of emergency absentee ballots. It was a struggle of governmental proportions but we prevailed and Char’s ballot was cast. We were most pleased to see the changes in Congress, though it will take two more years to get the dead wood out of the White House. Oh yes — I didn’t mention that Char was supposed to be an election official for our precinct. That set off another mad scramble to line up a last-minute replacement.

The large linden tree next to our house has been deteriorating for some years now. A couple of large cavities reveal considerable decay. We had a professional arborist evaluate it and in November he did a substantial pruning. Here you see him at the end of a long boom beginning to take off limbs. He removed the entire large limb that extends down from his perch, which was leaning toward the house, as well as several lesser ones. He also pruned the hickory tree across the road. The linden will have to come down at some point but we hope to get several more years out of it.

Cleo began to have breathing problems in early November. She made a rasping sound and had other symptoms similar to Clarence but without the nasal discharge. She went to see our local vet just before Thanksgiving, then I took her to the hospital at VPI in early December. She has an inoperable cancer on her hard palate tht extends up into the nasal passages, which explains the raspy respiration. She has difficulty eating so is losing weight but she still goes out on extended errands every day. Here she is on my lap on Christmas Eve. We are taking it a day at a time. Click on the photo to open more cat pix.

As the year draws to a close we are having more October-like weather. I have made some fence repairs and got a good start on tree and brush clearing for a big fence prject for next spring. Phil helped me with some “instant” rock removal on the road up Stark Ridge. We are making plans for major house renovations in 2007 so it appears that my next year is already spoken for. I will start an on-line diary once these projects are underway. Whether I will have time to maintain it through the year is an open question.

Xmas tow truck

The bottom photo at left shows Char standing next to a balsam fir on the hillside above our pond. This tree started out as a potted Christmas tree that we bought for my mom. I think it was the first year she lived in Monterey, which was 1991. Obviously it has prospered! The photo at right was taken at Chimney Run in Bath County, where the Liptrap family decorates their house and everything around it, including an aging tow truck. It is quite a festive sight. We put up a big star each year on the side of our warehouse but nothing quite so elaborate as this.


Happy New Year to All
* * * * *
John and Char Sweet