Almost heaven, West Virginia, Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River.
Life is old there, older than the trees…
(John Denver, “Take Me Home, Country Roads”)
Last week my wife Erin, daughter Analise, and I traveled to West Virginia and–from there–to northern Virginia’s Allegheny Mountains. These forested mountains rose and fell with the reds, yellows, and greens of autumn’s colors, just then beginning to peak. A more idyllic setting can hardly be imagined for Riven Rock Farms, home of the heritage Belted Galloway cattle which spread out to pasture on more than 700 acres of shaded farmland.
These cattle, with a distinctive white “belt” around their middle section, graze on the shaded pastures and drink the fresh mountain waters. Chuck and Lou Ann Neely oversee the operations at Riven Rock and, in addition to raising “Belties” (as the breed is affectionately called), they raise lamb and pastured heritage pork. Their hogs have access to seven acres of forested grasslands where the oaks let drop their acorns for the animals to gobble up. It’s a diet that harkens back to the earliest days of pork production, in ancient Roman times.
From the Virginias, we drove east towards Connecticut, stopping to hike in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreational Area. After a couple of days in Avon, Connecticut, in the Farmington Valley of Hartford, we took a train into Brooklyn, New York, to spend some time with Patrick Martins, founder of Heritage Foods USA and the Heritage Radio Network. Times Square, Rockefeller Center, and St. Patrick’s Cathedral (currently under renovation) rounded out our visit to the Big Apple.
Our return home took us through the rolling hills of New York State and Pennsylvania until we spent one final night on Lake Erie–perhaps the last warm night of the year–listening to the trees, blowing in the breeze.