Willie Nelson Joins the Fight Against Mountaintop Removal

I originally published this post on 3/24/14 at 11:59 PM and updated it on 3/25 at 8:59 PM after having time to find links to various court documents.


Mountaintop removal affects an estimated 12 million acres located in the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, and Ohio.

 In the latest episode of the coal wars, as the House prepares to vote on HR 2824 which would shackle the Obama administration from any effort to save the mountains and water in those states, Willie Nelson has joined the effort, Music Saves Mountains. The Natural Resources Defense Council-produced YouTube video ironically juxtaposes Nelson's rendition of America the Beautiful with scenes of the destructive mining practice. Other artists involved in this project against mountaintop removal include Emmylou Harris, Dave Matthews, Sheryl Crow, Kathy Mattea, Naomi Judd, Justin Townes Earl, and Ben Sollee.

 The so-called "Preventing Government Waste and Protecting Coal Mining Jobs in America"  would amend the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 to implement President Bush's 2008 parting gift to the coal industry: repeal of a 100-foot buffer rule in the Clean Water Act, thus allowing companies to dump mining waste directly into streams.

The Bush administration’s failure to enforce the buffer zone law destroyed 535 miles of stream between 2001 and 2005, when he stopped keeping count. The repeal of the buffer zone rule would allow more than 1,000 miles of streams to be destroyed each decade while the "further study" is conducted.

The House vote comes after a February 2014 court decision to invalidate the Bush measure because Bush's Office of Surface Mining had failed in an "arbitrary and capricious" fashion to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service before issuing the new standards and relied instead on an outdated 1996 biological opinion which did not include current information about the effects of strip mining, especially when it came to informing a rule issued more than a decade later.  The suit was brought by the Southern Environmental Law Center on behalf of the National Parks Conservation in 2009.  The Judge allowed the suit to go forward despite the Obama administration's contention that there was no longer a case or controversy. Earlier suits on behalf of other environmental groups were settled by a consent decree in March 2010 after the Department of Interior agreed to promulgate a new rule.

U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Senior Judge Barbara Rothstein wrote in her opinion: "Faced with clear evidence that habitats within stream buffer zones are home to threatened and endangered species and that mining operations affect the environment, water quality and all living biota, OSM's determination that the revisions to the stream protection rule encompassed by the 2008 Rule would have no effect on threatened and endangered species or critical habitat was not a rational conclusion."

 In a March 5 floor speech, Daniel Webster (R-FL) was pretty disingenuous: "H.R. 2824 is simple. It tells OSM to put in place the 2008 rule, study the results, and report to Congress. If the study reveals a need to draft a new rule, then a new rule should be drafted. By putting in place the already finalized 2008 rule, H.R. 2824 ensures that our streams are safe while further study is conducted.

How exactly does the rule ensure our streams are safe? The Reagan-era buffer was to have applied unless water quality and quantity would not will not be adversely impacted---a pretty tall order for mountain top removal mines which in the name of sometimes 1,000 feet wide and mile-long "valley-fills" dump the pulverized (and toxic) remains of mountains on top of headwater stream beds. If the interest were in saving government waste, rather than prohibit the reversal of Bush's 11th hour stealth attack, why not just reinstate the the 1983 rule? And as far as protecting coal mining jobs, that's not exactly a slam dunk either, as mountaintop removal requires far fewer miners than deep mining.


Mountain Justice Holds UBS Accountable for Funding Mountaintop Removal in Series of Protests

Graphic adapted from the tour flyer for Hands Off Appalachia and Mountain Justice- sponsored February 2013 speakers tour for the 15 arrested in Stamford CT on November 25.


Today I received a guest post from Ricki Draper on Mountain Justice sit-ins at UBS branches  in Asheville, NC; Johnson City, TN; Kingsport, TN; and Roanoke, VA in an attempt to meet with UBS branch managers.  The actions were part of Mountain Justice Spring Break in Virginia, which has been taking place March 1 - 9 in the Town of Appalachia, VA, co-hosted by the RReNEW Collective and Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards.   I'll be posting photographs from the action after I receive captions from Draper.  

Our mountains in Appalachia continue to be destroyed for coal with the help of big banks such as UBS.  I wrote about Hands Off Appalachia and its occupation of UBS banks back on labor day in 2012 and I have written about Mountain Justice since at least 2008  and published  guest pieces by authors including  Ash-Lee Woodard Henderson of TN, Sarah Vekasi of NC and Rachel Parsons of WV. 

Draper's piece didn't include links, so let me provide some in this introduction.  Draper, of Knoxville, TN, was part of the November 25 occupation of UBS in Stamford Connecticut, following the bank's Parade Spectacular the previous day.

If you want to read further about the January 9, 2013 WV Chemical Spill and its aftermath, my piece is here and there's an excellent archive of new articles at the Charleston Gazette.  If you want to read about the health effects of mountaintop removal, Vivian Stockman of the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition in Huntington WV, has compiled this archive.


Ricki Draper writes,

Early this afternoon, dozens of activists demonstrated at UBS offices throughout the southeast. They attempted to meet with UBS branch managers in Asheville, NC; Johnson City, TN; Kingsport, TN; and Roanoke, VA, and staged a sit-in in each office to demand a meeting.  The protests are a part of Mountain Justice Spring Break, which is an alternative spring break trip where college students learn about the biodiversity, culture, and history of resistance in Appalachia.

Today, activists are asking regional UBS offices to act as witnesses to the harm that mountaintop removal coal mining causes Appalachian communities. They are asking regional managers to contact UBS Americas and urge an end to UBS’s funding of mountaintop removal.

For 10 years, Mountain Justice has worked to end mountaintop removal and support the people at the frontlines of the struggle.

Jane Branham, of Norton, VA says, “Mountaintop removal is killing people  and poisoning our future in Wise County. VA. Banks like UBS are making this tragedy possible through their investments in criminal coal companies. We demand that UBS get out of this outlaw enterprise, and stop investing in the destruction of our Appalachian mountains”.

Mountaintop removal is an extreme form of strip-mining in which coal companies blast up to a thousand feet off the top of a mountain to extract thin seams of coal.  The resulting rubble is often placed in the valley below burying headwater streams.  Over 1 million acres of forest in Central Appalachia have been destroyed and over 2,000 miles of streams have been buried by this practice.  Recent research has linked mountaintop removal to increased rates of cancer, birth defects and cardiovascular disease in communities near these mining operations.  Additionally, mountaintop removal and the process of cleaning coal from MTR sites in Appalachia has lead to catastrophic events. Most recently, a chemical used to process coal, MCHM, leaked into the Elk River and poisoned the drinking water of nine counties in West Virginia on January 9. Since that time, residents continue to have limited access to clean drinking water and suffer health impacts from the use of the tainted water.

UBS is a top funder of companies that conduct mountaintop removal such as Alpha Natural Resources, Patriot Coal, and Arch Coal.

Tyler Cannon, of Logan West Virginia delivered a letter to the Johnson City UBS office today and asked to meet with the regional manager. He said, “In communities around MTR mines, like the one I was raised in, there are increased rates of heart disease, respiratory disease, developmental diseases, over 50 percent greater likelihood of having a deadly cancer, and the life expectancy is 24 years below the national average, and if that doesn't qualify as a human rights violation, then I'm not really sure what does. So we're here to demand that this be stopped”.

UBS’s existing policy claims to “recognize the potential environmental, social, and human rights impacts of this industry sector” and take into consideration “concerns of stakeholder groups”, but UBS officials have never travelled to Appalachia to witness the impacts or met with impacted community members until Hands Off Appalachia met with UBS in November.  The policy also claims to take into account regulatory compliance, but UBS financed Massey Energy and oversaw their merger with Alpha Natural Resources even after Massey was fined $20 million by the EPA for over 4,600 violations of the Clean Water Act...


Frank X Walker: Even More than a Griot

Cropped screen shot from the Kentucky Educational TV video "Frank X Walker: I Dedicate This Ride" for the Kentucky Muse Series.  I published this post on 3/3/13/14 at 8:57 PM and last updated it on 3/5/2014 at 8:30 PM.


Frank X Walker's play I Dedicate This Ride, about Black Kentucky  jockey Isaac Murphy (1861-1896), is showing today through March 9 in Lexington KY with the Message Theatre troupeMurphy  became the subject of Walker's 2010 poetry collection of the same name when Frank X was commissioned to write a play that year at the Lexington Children's Theater.  The photo below of that production is by Rich Copely for the Lexington Herald-Leader.  

Walker's fellow Affrilachian poet Kelly Norman Ellis, has compared him to the griots: West African historians, storytellers, praise singers, poets and keepers of the oral tradition.  To me, Frank X is even more: with the oral tradition often vanished, he sifts through what remains in a variety written and sometimes video records and re-imagines and creates those praise songs.

Such was the case with  his wonderful poetry collection, Turn Me Loose, The Unghosting of Medgar Evers for which he won an NAACP Image Award last month.  (I was thrilled--Virginia Tech Library ordered the book  at my request, when it was first published.)

As in Turn Me Loose, Frank X  makes us feel history through imagining the voices of his protagonist  and those who surround him.  In I Dedicate This Ride, the speakers include Burn's wife Lucy, his mentor African-American trainer Eli Jordan, and his parents James and America Burns.  As Walker recounts in the KET video about his research:

It wasn't even the Isaac poems.  It was the research that revealed the poems that I wrote about Lucy and Eli Jordan and his parents that really made it a story to me.  Because I think Isaac just telling his own story would have been pretty flat and uninspiring.  But when you appreciate it in the context of a really good student who rose from nothing to become the greatest rider in the world.  The thing about the research that amazed me about the research is they spent more time talking about his character and his high values and how he conducted his life than they did talking about his success as a jockey.

Message Theatre started in the 1980s and produced plays through about 1994.  It relaunched in January with a performance of The Meeting, a two-man play about a fictional meeting between Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.

Here's the title poem, spoken by Isaac Murphy.  You can listen to Frank X read "I Dedicate This Ride" starting at minute 2:06  in the KET video.

When I come barreling down the stretch
I always think about my daddy, James Burns,
a runaway slave turned soldier.

At the start of every race I pretend
he's in the crowd, standing at attention
watching me ride for the first time,
his brass belt buckle gleaming
like his proud mouth.

I tell myself I don't dare lose,
that this race is for the Union.
For all ex-slaves who joined up,
who stole away with their families.
They taught us about sacrifice,
dug trenches, carried supplies
and ate a whole lot of rebel bullets

just so they could keep the freedom
they hungered so much for.
Just so their children could dream.

So I could ride horses and enjoy true quiet
and these visits with him
in the middle of all this noise.
The video includes other poems, excerpts from the play and interviews with Walker and others  about his creation of the work. It also includes footage the March 2011  Symposium on Affrilachia which Walker convened in Lexington at the University of KY, where he's on faculty. (That's where I got to meet him after knowing about his work for years and you can see me a couple of times when the camera pans to the audience.)

The video also captures Frank X talking about how he coined the word "Affrilachian."

I looked up the dictionary definition of Appalachian and it saw that it said white residents of Appalachian region and this disturbed me a little bit because I'd already accepted that the best writers in the State of KY at the time were Appalachian writers, but if that definition was correct, it meant that I coudl never be an Appalachian writer. I coudl never be one of the best writers in the state.


Yesterday, as the Academy awards were being shown, I learned via facebook from Washington Post environmental journalist Darryl Fears (article archive, twitter, facebook)  that Lupita Nyong'o had won an Oscar for what we both regard as a spectacular performance as Patsey in Twelve Years a Slave.   Darryl pointed me to Katie Calautti's (twitter) essay on Patsey, "What Will Become of Me.?" I told him that's the same question which  has haunted me since viewing the film.  And although I'm not one to give assignments, I'd bet that Frank X Walker would be up to the task of answering that question.

Of course, the records were probably more easily available on the folks Walker has chosen in the book's I've mentioned here. Medgar Edgars tragic death and the long battle to convict his murderer have been a topic much written and spoken about during my lifetime.  And Isaac Murphy was first to win the Kentucky Derby three times (1884, 1890, 1891). Part of the lore is that rather than use a whip or spurs, Isaac would simply talk to his horses.

I didn't realize until I read this collections the mostly lost history of Blacks in horse racing.  In the very first Kentucky Derby winners, thirteen of the fifteen jockeys were Black and of the first twenty-eight Derbies through 1902, fifteen of the winning riders were Blacks....before such jockeys began to disappear from the sport throughout the 20th century.

And even when history is "preserved" it can be dismaying:  Murphy's disinterment from what his family thought would be his final resting place gets told with a straight face by the Kentucky racing industry. 

For years, Murphy's grave was left untouched and nearly forgotten in an abandoned cemetery in Lexington, Ky. Finally in 1967, after a long search, his remains were found, exhumed and reburied at the old Man o' War burial site, and then were moved again, along with Man o' War, to the Kentucky Horse Park prior to its opening in 1978. Today, Murphy rests near Man o' War and some of his illustrious descendants, a champion among champions. 
As if getting re-buried with a horse and its descendent as his fellow champions were some kind of honor...maybe one only members of PETA could love.  What, if, instead, the racing industry had help restore the original cemetery?

What happened brings to my mind Traveler getting buried with Robert E. Lee.  Should we take comfort in the fact that Kentuckians didn't put Murphy's bones on display after disinterment, as Virginians did with Traveler for a time. Sadly, as the KET video points out, Murphy's beloved Lucy got left behind.

Kind of like Patsey.  Frank X Walker brings both Issac amd Lucy Murphy  back to us--along with  James and America Burns and Eli Jordan--and it is a great gift, and like them, worthy of praise.


UPDATE  3/5/2014

I contacted Dave Zirin, a  political sportswriter and sports editor for The Nation via titter and he kindly"favorited" my tweet. 

Jennifer Nardine, who handles acquisitions for the English Department for Newman Library at Virginia Tech, wrote me this morning to say she was ordering I Dedicate This Ride for the collection.

In doing a little more reading, I learned the reason for the disappearance Black jockeys from racing is truly ugly, as recounted by Christopher Klein (twitter) last year when Kevin Krigger from San Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, was only the second Black jockey to race in the Derby after 1921.
The rising tide of institutional racism that swept across Gilded Age America finally seeped into the world of horse racing. Jim Crow was on the ascent, and the U.S. Supreme Court itself blessed segregation in the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson decision. Emboldened by the societal changes, resentful white jockeys at northern raceways conspired to force blacks off the track, in some cases literally. During the 1900 racing season, white jockeys in New York warned trainers and owners not to mount any black riders if they expected to win. They carried out their threats by boxing in black jockeys and riding them into—and sometimes over—the rails. In a cruel irony, free sons of former slaves felt the sting of whips directed their ways during races. Race officials looked the other way. Owners realized that black riders had little chance of winning given the interference. Even Willie Simms, the only African-American jockey to win all three of the Triple Crown events, had to beg for a mount.

By 1904, black riders had been virtually banned from the major racetracks, including Churchill Downs, and the complexion of the Kentucky Derby had been changed forever. Black participation dwindled, and no African-American rode the race between 1921 and 2000, when Marlon St. Julien guided Curule to a seventh-place finish.

Barred from the United States, African-American jockeys took their talents to Europe. Winkfield, [Jimmy Winkfield matched Murphy's back-to-back Derby win the 1902 Kentucky Derby] for instance, starred in Czarist Russia, and after the Russian Revolution he raced in Poland, Germany, and France before retiring with some 2,600 wins in an incredible career. No black man has won the Run for the Roses since Winkfield’s 1902 triumph.


Wouldn't It Be Lovely: The West Virginia Chemical Spill

Photo by poet Crystal Good  who posted it to twitter with the comment, "I live in Charleston, WV. We have been w/out WATER for 6 days. The ban has lifted -- but would YOU drink this"  Others had earlier described their water as "gelled up" or "the consistency of motor oil.


I live in the New River Valley in Virginia less than 35 miles via the highway--less as the crow flies-- from the West Virginia line.  I've been following the story of  Freedom Industries since January 9 when  it leaked 5000 or more gallons of the coal washing chemical 4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol (MCHM)  into the Elk River just a mile-and-a-half upstream from the water intake of the Charleston, WV treatment plant.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

On January 12, Associated Press reporters Mitch Weiss and Brendan Farrington quoted one man as saying,  "You won't find many people in these parts who are against these industries."  That contradicts their own account from earlier the same day when they wrote that coal miner Chris Laws of Mamet was angry at Freedom Industries.  It contradicts what I've heard from many native West Virginians among the more than 300,000 customers who dealt first without running water and then  with doubts about whether officials have been telling them the truth when they say the water is safe: the tell-tale odor of licorice persists despite flushing out their pipes according to instructions.

And it certainly contradicts  Eric Waggoner's eloquent essay "Elemental" which he published on on his blog January 12 (h/t Wendy Johnston.) In "Elemental,"  Waggoner curses the "greedhead" operators, the "screwjob" elected officials, everyone "with a superior attitude"  who "ever asked me how I could stand to live in a place like" West Virginia.  And, yes, Waggoner curses his fellow West Virginians who "mistook suffering for honor."  According to this January 16 CNN interview with Brooke Baldwin, he includes himself in this last number.

Today's spur to my own outrage came from Jack Wright who sent  an op-ed from Froma Harrop. It's bad enough when the coal industry and its allies treat Appalachians as disposable. It adds insult to injury when an "award-winning" "liberal" NYC columnist  gets paid by Creators syndicate to  posit West Virginia as a "cult" and NationofChange reprints her op-ed.  After all, that site claims to be "progressive journalism for positive action."

"Birds don't dirty their own nests." "Munchkins." "Self-pity."  "Mass-suckerdom."

Yes, Harrop wrote all  that, which makes me wonder if she or the editors of NationofChange have ever been to Appalachia or even have any friends here. And even if the answer is no, I'd still have thought that liberals and progressives would, by definition, deplore such bigotry.

Harrop twists Waggoner's criticism of his fellow West Virginians to support for her cult theory.  She fails to link to his post either on his blog or at HuffPost, which reprinted it.  She demotes Dr. Waggoner from Associate Professor (one step below full Professor) to the lowest non-tenured rank of instructor.  That may be how he's identified by HuffPost, but what happened to fact checking?  Reading Harrop's piece made me think back to a song Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe penned for  the 1956 Broadway play My Fair Lady

In "Wouldn't It be Loverly" flower girl Eliza Doolittle sings about it her modest desires.  Here are mine:  
  • Wouldn't it be lovely if Harrop used her national platform to document how Waggoner is hardly the only West Virginian with his point of view.  
  • Wouldn't it be lovely if NationofChange truly supported positive action, rather than reprinting Harrop and several other pieces that decry how "profits trump people" while providing no prescription for change or even helping with the current crisis. 
  • Wouldn't it be lovely if  folks wrote Harrop (fharrop@gmail.com) and/or express their opinions on twitter: @FromaHarrop @creatorsonline @NSNCgroup @NationofChange.  

Harrop claims that the general response has been to "yell at the media and outsiders and the media" for covering the spill.  While I don't concur, I can see why someone would want to yell at her.  Lord knows, I'm tempted.  Instead, I'll quote, with his permission, the more eloquent reaction of  Appalachian Studies scholar Herbert Reid of Lexington, KY.

I don't think we want to fall into the insider/outsider frame that Froma Harrop employs in her op ed.  In writing about what is still happening in West Virginia, she either forgets or sets aside what has been going on for several years in a USA dominated by a corporate state and financial elite....Appalachians know more than enough about the pity of outsiders on which Harrop closes her piece.  But the frame itself is warped because Americans generally need a new politics that dares confront inequality, climate change, and national infrastructure problems that are worsening across USA.  Give most Appalachians and Americans the facts about these issues and they are not likely to opt for either a politics of deference or a politics of pity....Our economic elites know this which is why they prefer a politics of flim-flam. 

I will say Harrop IS right about one thing.  When it comes to "suffering environmental torture at the hands of polluting industries", there never seems to be a last straw.  Let me point you in the direction of one "outsider"  Californian Mimi Pickering who has spent her entire career as a filmmaker in Appalachia.  Yesterday she shared the following with a group those sharing stories about our region.

The recent chemical spill in Charleston prompted me to post "Chemical Valley" on Vimeo. Anne Lewis and I made this  Appalshop documentary about events in the Kanawha Valley in the wake of Union Carbide’s  Bhopal disaster in 1984 and a series of frightening chemical leaks that led citizens to demand the right to know and to be protected from toxic chemicals produced and stored there. The film also looks at the realities of environmental racism as residents of Institute describe the price they pay, and the few rewards they receive, from living next to this dangerous plant.
 you can watch the 60 min film in two parts -
There is definitely a film to be made of this water crisis that so clearly ties together the toxic chemical industry and the mining industry that destroys land, water and communities miles from the holding tanks. I hope someone will run with it
 In a January 13 statement U.S. Attorney for Southern West Virginia Booth Goodwin announced his office had opened a criminal investigation on the current spill and that 
companies whose facilities could affect the public water supply should be on notice: if you break federal environmental laws, you will be prosecuted. Our drinking water is not something you can take chances with, and this mess can never be allowed to happen again.       
I won't be holding my breath, but wouldn't it be lovely.


Dance Party with Old Man Kelly and the Street Sweepers at Fatso Ballroom

Glad the weather thawed out enough to attend the potluck and dance at Bill's.  I'm bringing a gallon (literally) of fruit salad made with Asian pears from Good  Food Good People and Texas Rio grapefruit (with a bit of banana, pineapple tidbits and apples thrown in--the latter also from GFGP.


Carnival of Journalism: Letter to My Younger Self

David Cohn wrote us November 12 to let us know that Shaminder Dulai would be  December's host, after the revived carnival covered the topic of modernizing college journalism organizations in November.  This months prompt was to write a letter to your younger self.


Dear Beth,

Don't worry.  Things will work out.

You'll do fine with your career.  You won't always seem to have a plan, but if you pursue what engages you, your resume will make sense and if someone seems like they wouldn't want to hire you if you were truly yourself, you wouldn't want to work there anyway.  Your gift will be the abilities to connect the small daily details to a larger picture with the patience to pursue it and to entice folks to work with you, not for you. That's because you are neither a follower nor a leader n the conventional sense.  If your family fear for your path or others belittle it, lovingly ignore them.

You will be able to make a home anywhere.  You'll be able to be frugal with style.  You'll love to travel, even solo.  But it's worth it to have a base of operations, be it a tiny house or a modest shared apartment with someone companionable.

I only found this out lately, when I moved earlier this month into a new apartment in downtown Blacksburg. I feel at home for the first time in years.  (The apartment is one of 5 or six owned by a local man--not a real estate conglomerate--in an older building.  It has wood floors and interesting details:  a built in bookcase in the living room and a Spanish arch leading into tiny kitchen that features  built-in spice shelves, plenty of cabinets and a wall of windows and windowed-door out onto a small landing which will be fun for eating out come warmer weather.  It's around the corner from the natural foods grocery and a few blocks from the college library and our not-for-profit movie theater and concert venue.)

The former occupant left me the most comfortable queen size bed in a room that fills with light each morning. I've bought my first orchid--a rescue from Kroger's manager's special section. The remaining roommate is a pleasure to be around.  The last time I lived with someone whose company I enjoyed, it was a boyfriend who traveled for work and wanted no more than he could load into his Ford Ranger truck.

That boyfriend and I spent our last four years together in a furnished apartment in a problematic neighborhood in Roanoke.  I wanted to buy a bargain of a house next to my friends in Gainsboro or at least move to an unfurnished apartment and buy furniture--I knew I could find something cheap secondhand and told him we could always give it away or donate it back to the Habitat Home Store or the Thrift Shop.

He vetoed all this and eventually moved on.  I used to miss him for little things, like the pleasure of buying him a bag of pepper and sea salt kettle chips I knew he'd enjoy.  Ironically he now has bought a house near where I took him to see the Baby O's play for their fortieth season in Bluefield before the team moved 13 years later to Sarasota. I like to think I got him started on his way to this domestic bliss by introducing him to an 8" Lodge cast iron skillet as an alternative to Teflon and a Pyrex covered casserole instead of those disposable aluminum foil baking pans.  (He did buy me a Vitamix blender which I still have)

All these years later, I've bought that second-hand furniture from the YMCA Thrift Shop (a place with some great finds that makes TJ Maxx prices look like Macy's.).  It panicked me when the apartment before this one didn't work out and I had to move.  But you know what? I found the much better place where I live now and two friends helped me move the lilac-upholstered armchair, the two vaguely art-nouveau dining room chairs, the two oak desk chairs, the full-sized file cabinet, the white student desk with the delft china knobs, the Galloping Gourmet convection roaster and the twin size bed.

One of those friends is invited to dinner with her husband as soon as they get back from the holiday trip to visit family.  She already gave me a duck to keep in the freezer to roast for them (they run a local CSA farm and I think she might have bartered it for  the chickens that they raise.)

I've got goat sausage and stew meat I bought from another local farmer to feed the other friend when he gets back from his travels out west.  He's got lots of tools and he's promised to help me modify the twin bed frame, so it can be a trundle day bed and we put up company in style.

The little desk fits perfectly in the kitchen as a workspace with a third of the surface dedicated as a stand for my roommate's microwave.  The fridge is filled with homemade soups and various cheeses and the freezer--besides that duck and goat--is filled with frozen fruit to make sorbet and grains to grind to flour in the Vitamix.

And I even found a comfy upholstered loveseat more to scale with the living room when I was in Roanoke AND a kind stranger from the town next to mine who offered to deliver it in his van if I would ferry his bicycle in my station wagon. And, yes, he liked the idea of coming over for dinner with his wife after the holidays are done.

In some ways you'll be there with us, too.



Beer Tasting in Blacksburg: Vintage Cellar, December 20, 3 - 7 p.m.

Looking forward to the beer tasting!

Photo from Patrick's blog post of 11/16/13  (Alberta, Canada)

De Ranke Père Noël

Père Noël is a Christmas ale, though very different from many other Christmas ales you might know. While most Christmas ales are rich & sweet, this one is amber-coloured, 7% vol. Alc. strong and has a pleasant hop bitterness. The complex taste is completed with the addition of liquorice. In the recipe we can also find pale malt, Munich malt, Caramel malt, Brewers Gold hops and Hallertau hops.

7% ABV

Photo from review at RateBeer.com

Gouden Carolus Noël
4 pack

Gouden Carolus Noel is a strong, dark ruby red beer with character and contains an alcohol percentage of 10.5 % VOL. Brewed in August, the beer rests a few months to reach an optimal balance. Three kinds of hops and six different kinds of herbs and spices define the rich taste of this Christmas beer. World-class!

10 % ABV

Perennial Artisan Ales Fête de Noël

Our inspiration for this beer was the bread served during Christmas time in West Flanders called Volaeren. This beer uses a Belgian dark strong ale recipe and adds fresh orange zest and raisins as well as a hint of fresh rosemary. It has a complex dark fruit and chocolate character from the dark Belgian candi syrup and a rummy note from Turbinado sugar. We think the fruit and herb additions will make it a great fit for the holidays.

10 % ABV

Scaldis Noël
Scaldis de Noël was born in 1991 to satisfy consumers seeking a hearty beer for the Christmas and New Year celebrations. A product made exclusively from malt, hops, candy sugar and water, Scaldis de Noël is a high fermentation, filtered beer and has an alcohol volume of 12%. The substantial use of caramel malt gives it a coppery red colour and an exceptional roundness. Particularly carefully studied hopping gives Scaldis de Noël a consistent, fruity flavour with a delicately hopped aroma. A limited edition beverage, Scaldis de Noël is an indispensable reference among the end-of-year beers.

12 % ABV