The Sweet Family in 2004

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The latest development threat to Highland County is industrial-scale wind power. Extracting electrical power from the wind sounds like a great idea but closer examination reveals a multitude of problems, especially on our Appalachian ridge tops. Our wind page has turned into an information center for local wind-power opponents but there are links to information on the other side of the issue too.

Among our recent projects is the completion in early November of the tractor shed which we started in September 2003. It did not really take that long to build. Winter weather shut us down in late November and other farm work took precedence for almost a year. It is attached to the old tool shed and garage on two sides and provides storage for the lawn mower, ladders, and garden tools as well as the tractor, all conveniently close to the house. Click on the small photo at right for a photo-diary of this project.   [490 Kb]

We bought a post driver last spring so we can now build fence without having to borrow equipment, a major convenience. Our first project was to close off the pasture just above the new shed and then we fenced the field below the dam. We kept the horses in those two fields all summer and never had to turn them up the mountain with the cows. Keeping them near the house means that Char can ride whenever she wants to. A major fence project on the mountain pasture looms for next spring. The photos at left show the start and finish of a late fall project. This large brush pile had been accumulating for years at the north end. It burned for two days, then I graded it off and have since planted and mulched it. Road maintenance is an ongoing job. One improvement project became urgent when I got the truck stuck trying to get to our shale pit. Better drainage and filling of several low spots made a more weather-resistant road. Haymaking was a trial this year as it rained every few days. Lots of grass but hard to get it dry. We lost a couple of acres to the rains but finally got enough in the barn.

Char's recital

Char has played her violin in several concerts this year and she is now taking classical lessons to improve her technique. The students at the music school gave a recital recently. There must have been 50 of them and Char was the only one over 30. She is also weaving quite a lot, mostly scarves to sell in a local shop. Char had an interesting time of it one day in November as she served on the jury in a felony weapons case. Char thought the evidence presented was largely circumstantial and the charges could not pass the “reasonable doubt” test. The jury deliberated for several hours but failed to agree so it was declared a mistrial.

Trees have been in the Highland County news this fall. Our Supervisors voted to remove two large spruce trees from the courthouse lawn despite strong public opposition. My it looks bare now! While that flap was ongoing we learned that the National Forest in the northwestern corner of the county would be the source for the Capitol Christmas tree this year, ironically also a spruce. There is quite a bit about it in our Christmas letter. If you read that first what follows will make more sense. The tree was helicoptered out of the woods and briefly put on display in Monterey, left photo. To get an idea of scale, note the silhouettes of people at the base of the lighted tree.

About a dozen Forest Service people spent the next ten days working on it. They put a big rubber bladder around the trunk, which keeps water fed to it, sprayed it with something that helps it hold on to its needles, stabilized the branches, fastening each one so it can’t move during transport. Then it was wrapped in a big translucent plastic bubble decorated with all sorts of Virginia decals and icons, including the Highland County seal, ready to travel all around the state before they took it to Washington. For reasons I can’t fathom it is popular with politicians to have this bubble-wrapped tree, which you can barely see, lying on its side, come to their community and have a ceremony sending it on its way.

This project has occasioned much scurrying around, I can tell you, but it was a wonderful project for our community. The school really participated in a big way. They took all the kids in school buses to Laurel Fork to see the tree before it was cut, made lots of ornaments for the tree, and the elementary school and the school band learned new music for the Tree Send-Off Ceremony. All the political dignitaries that serve this area were there along with about 1,000 Highland County residents (which is over one-third of our population). It was a very nice event with speeches by everybody who had the least excuse to give one, music by the schools and dancing by the Little Switzerland Cloggers and a big reception to follow. It was a vintage Highland County celebration. Everything was “homemade” — the music, dancing, decorating, food (a request went out for cookies for the reception and the response was overwhelming – we must have had 100,000 cookies!). And all followed by a turkey dinner in the school cafeteria as a fund raiser for the senior class trip.

There is still more about the tree on the Chamber of Commerce web site. The photo shown there is of a much smaller red spruce on our friends Patti Reum and Tom Brody’s place. There is also an “Official” web site for the tree, hosted by VPI, which is where we swiped the photo of the lighted tree and the Capitol dome. They have pix of the bands and dignitaries as well as the Monterey first-grader lighting the tree. Since these are links to outside sites, I cannot guarantee that they will remain viable over time.