Sweet farm from our neighbor's overlook in April with the red maples in flower. Our farm includes everything in view except the foreground trees and the distant ridge, which includes Sounding Knob in upper right.

John & Charolette Sweet
HCR 4, Box 305
Mustoe, VA 24468
Phone: 540-468-2222
FAX: 540-468-2223
E-mail: jrs@johnrsweet.com

December 2000

Merry Greetings of the Season!

Well, the 20TH Century is truly behind us now, since we are completing the 2000TH year since the birth of Christ. Despite many folks celebrating the dawn of the 21ST Century a year early, now everyone can agree that 1 January 2001 really is in the 21ST!   I prefer to think of it as the first day of the new millennium because year 2000 proved to be fairly trying. Not without its good aspects but it makes a better ending than beginning.

To start on a high note, the cabin is FINISHED! And a wonderful little building it is, too! Come stay in it — I think you will find it a treat. Kathy has really enjoyed having her aspect of the business office in its own space, I love my new weaving/spinning studio, and it is a true joy to have people to dinner and otherwise entertain down there. We’ve had people stay for the night or the weekend and they have all pronounced it good. We are going to complete its initiation with a Twelfth Night party to wind up the holiday season... You are invited!

On the downside, the dam remains an ongoing project. The leak we were concerned about last year became a hole. John stopped the deterioration by applying a sheet of plastic to the upstream face of the dam and that has been an effective holding action. The current plan is to remove part of the upstream face of the dam and apply a 20' by 80' sheet of 20 mil plastic landfill liner and cover it with soil. This should stop the seepage. As soon as appropriate weather and an appropriate bulldozer can be produced at the same time we’ll try once more to see the end of this project!

On the upside, John’s mother is doing quite well. Changes in medication in February resulted in the disappearance of all the symptoms that were so worrying this time last year. We continue to have someone staying with her around the clock because she is pretty weak and cannot move around dependably on her own. And the anxiety and depression for which she receives medication is more easily kept at bay when she is not alone. At present there are 9 part-time people on her payroll (we estimate we are in the top ten list of employers in Highland County). Until about February John and I took turns staying with her at night. Unfortunately, not really sleeping four nights a week took its toll and John ended up with flu and a cold that pretty much stayed with him til spring. I contented myself with being tired all the time. As we added more help we got down to each of us doing one night a week.

Red maple in flower.

An assortment of kids and grandkids came in late July. Beverly was here, but for four different reasons Charlie and their three children couldn’t make it. Stephanie, Alta and their two came from MN. The day after they arrived we invited some neighbors over for a cookout at the newly completed cabin. All was in readiness and it was time for the festivities to begin when I made a quick trip up to the house to get a couple of forgotten items. Coming back down to the cabin I slipped and fell in such an imaginative way that I broke my right leg. The rescue squad was summoned and I was whisked off to Fishersville where an X-ray revealed a spiral fracture of the tibia and horizontal fracture of the lower end of the fibula. And for me that pretty much put paid to the rest of the summer and part of the fall. Sadly, I don't remember much about the kids’ visit. The girls really enjoyed being together and I think the children had fun. I hope Alta had a good time, too — I know he did some fishing. It has been an interesting experience. I don’t feel I can recommend it to others, but if you DO happen to break your leg, I hope your experience is as felicitous as mine has been. Among other benefits, I lost 15 pounds I badly needed to lose and have gotten back to a regular yoga program. I had a number of physical therapy sessions in August and September and in January will start training to get my right leg back to strength. I can walk and run up and down the stairs and stand balanced on either foot, but don’t have full flexibility in my ankle yet and the muscle in my right leg is smaller than my left. I guess this could be described as an up-and-downer.

Here’s an upper. Last spring I started playing Irish music with a guitar/mandolin player (John Hull) and he and I and our teacher, Two Gun Terry (his mother named him Wilbur — the Two Gun part is another story), were asked by local musicians to play in a concert of classical and semi-classical music. I managed to break my leg before we could bring this off, but Two Gun and John played and we were asked to play for the McDowell Ruritan Club banquet meeting in November. As a result of that John and I were asked to play Christmas music at one of the shops in Monterey during their Wintertide celebration. So it has been fun (and a challenge!) to get ready for these various gigs. I played the Christmas music on hammer dulcimer, so I have rather abruptly become much more conversant with that instrument. My violin playing still leaves much to be desired, but I soldier on.

But here’s a downer. As a result of worsening interpersonal problems, in February Brad and Kathy agreed to part and he returned to North Carolina. She has stayed on in the house they were renting and continues to work part time in the business. They have continued to be in pretty close touch, so this story is not yet ended. She is not having an easy time of it and is unsettled and unclear about what she wants to do. And to add to the drama, lightning struck beside her house this summer, leaving a 6-foot trench in the yard, knocking out all the phones in the 499 exchange, blowing out the water pump, all the television equipment, her microwave, her answering machine, scorching all the electrical receptacles, ripping open a heavy-duty extension cord, blowing a string of Christmas lights into two inch pieces and leaving her and her dog and cats nervous wrecks. No one can quite understand why the house didn’t catch fire.

And another downer. On December 1ST a deer committed suicide on the car as I was driving it home from Monterey. No damage to me, but pretty thoroughly scrunched in the car’s front end. I thankfully report that the impact was not severe enough to deploy the airbag. The body shop man reports that he has completed installing all parts and it is now ready to paint. He figures we can have it back by Christmas (an upper!)

Changing writers now.... Char has been writing this letter up to this point because I have been busy working out the details of a conservation easement for our property. This is a legal document that prohibits development, subdivision, commercial logging, etc., and will protect our property beyond our lifetimes. We have 337 acres, including the entire drainage basin of the small stream that feeds the pond, and several acres of wetlands that are home to rare plant species. Our main goals are to protect these wetlands and to allow the wooded areas to revert to native old-growth forest. We signed the papers just this week, a major milestone. Finally, if anyone out there wants to know even more about our doings, please check our web site at http://johnrsweet.com/Personal/. I have not done an update for some while but I expect to soon. Just to be sure, wait until January to log in.

Char & John