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July 2021 Newsletter

Jul. 14th 2021

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Little Girl In Need

Oct. 28th 2015
Maddison Swing
“You don’t know what strong is until being strong is the only choice you have”

Since being at Belle Grove, I have come to know many of the people that live and work around us. One of those people that we have come to know is Angela, a supervisor at Hornes in Port Royal. Angela is a wonderful person with such great attention to detail. And best of all, she can make one mean hamburger!

In getting to know Angela, I found out several months ago that she has a daughter named Maddison. Of course I took a liking to her immediately. I have had the chance to meet her once and in doing so, fell in love with her sweet disposition and angelic face.

Maddison Bubbles

But sadly, this sweet child is in the fight of her life. Maddison has Lymphoblastic Leukemia. In meeting her, you would never know the struggle she has been through. She is upbeat and loves to chat with anyone.

Maddison Hospital

Two weekends ago, Brett and I were visiting Hornes for a quick dinner. While there, we heard that Maddison had had a seizure that evening. Just a few days later, I met up with Angela again. The news wasn’t good. Maddison had made it through the seizure, but is showing signs of possibly having had a stroke. Her right side is not working as it should. At least conversation, they were taking her in for a MRI.

While talking to Angela, she informed me that they were having a fund raiser for Maddison’s medical bills. See, Angela still works full time and takes care of Maddison in between. In talking with her, she is dumbfounded at what our government requires for help. She pointed out to me that if she quits her job and moves into government housing in Richmond, the government will take care of 100% of Maddison’s bills. But if she continues to work and lives on her own, in a safe place, they will only fund 65%. That leaves a huge 35% bill to cover.

Angela has started a Go Fund Me Campaign for Maddison. I am asking, if you feel so incline, please visit and donate something. Even $5 will help. I am also asking that you please share the campaign. Only through word of mouth can we help them reach their goal of $10k.

There is also a fund raiser at Lou’s Soul Food on November 14th. The flyer is included. Please help them get the word out by printing copies of the flyer and sharing it. If you have anything you would like to donate for the raffle, they are looking for items to raffle off.

Maddison Flyer
Any help would be most appreciated. Let’s help this sweet angel in this fight!
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The Circle of Life

Jul. 7th 2015

July 7, 2015

You know, one of the things I haven’t gotten use to here at the plantation is nature’s circle of life. Growing up, I lived in small cities and towns so I didn’t have much experience with rural life. Heck, I didn’t see my first cow up close until I was eighteen years old. And like most girls, I have trouble handling the death of a pet or animal. Brett likes to say that I prefer to think that the animals we eat from the grocery store committed suicide.

Moving here, I knew I was going to be exposed to nature and that life and death would be a part of it. But I try not to watch when it happens. But sometimes, things happen that can’t be avoided. The first day I arrived here as I was return to the plantation after dinner the first night, I hit a rabbit that was running across the road. As I looked into my rear window, I could see it as it rolled out from under my car. In tears, I called Brett and said, “I killed a rabbit! I haven’t been here a whole day and I have already killed an animal! Why am I here?” For the next week, I avoided that road not wanting to see the damage I had done.

During the winter, you may remember our feral cat, KittyKat. Being so tenderhearted, I couldn’t stand that he was out in the cold and snow. So we built him a feral cat box out of a plastic storage container, lined it with reflective insulation and hay. He used it almost as soon as we got it out. We put food out for him and helped him get through the tough winter months. When he didn’t show up, I would worry that something had happened to him. But he would always return a few days later.

We worked with him and get him to a point where he would come in and eat in the sun room. I felt like it gave him a chance to warm up. In the Spring, he would show up with a wounded foot. After we were about to capture him, we took him to the vets to have it looked it. At that point, we had him fixed. No need to have more feral cats than we already have. He would recoup in the house for a month and then we had to let him back out. Two weeks later he showed up looking like he had not eaten to two weeks. We captured him again and took him to Wendy’s Feline Friends in Colonial Beach. One week later, we got a call from someone who wanted him. We sent them to Wendy’s and as far as we know, KittyKat is living the fat life with a new family.

A good ending to KittyKat’s story.

Two weeks ago, we noticed that we had two new kittens on the plantation. There is a black cat that has had a liter every spring in our Ice House. This year, the two kittens, one solid black like the mother and one black and white like KittyKat, were seen running around the edge of the wooded are with their mother. If you tried to approach them, they would take off. They weren’t as friendly as KittyKat.

On Saturday night, as we were coming in from dinner, one of the kittens jumped off the front portico and ran down the side of the house. The mother and other kitten were no where in sight. So I walked down to find the kitten tucked under the downspout. I was able to pull him out. He was the little black and white kitten and he looked just like KittyKat. My heart melted. He didn’t look so good, as if he was starving.

Brett grabbed KittyKat’s old feral box and we placed the kitten inside. We brought him in and grabbed some food for him. Sadly, he wouldn’t eat. We waited until morning, letting him settle down, but he still didn’t eat. I began to get worried. I didn’t want him to die. So about mid-morning, I tried to pick him up and show him where the food was. For my efforts, I got a nice bite on the tip of my finger. I quickly washed it off and pushed on it to bleed it out. It was a pretty deep bit so bleeding didn’t take much effort.

After not getting him to eat, I knew we would have to let him go again. My hope was that he might find his mother again and she could help him find something.

So with a heavy heart, I took him back to the Summer Kitchen and let him go. I figured this would be where his mother would come. He ran off quickly and I just took a deep breath … and hoped.

Later in the day, we would see the kitten make its way across the circle and end up along the wooded area behind the parking spaces. He would remain there for the rest of the day. Brett took food out to him and even took a bowl of milk, just in case he couldn’t eat.

People that came to the plantation on that day saw him. One of our friends pointed him out and said that he didn’t look good. I knew he was starving. But I couldn’t make him eat. Thankfully, later in the day, mother showed up. She sat with him for the rest of the day. Later, we would come back from dinner to find mother and kitten had left. In my heart, I hoped she would help him find food.

Yesterday, I would see the kitten again. Walking around the parked cars and the wooded area beside the garage. I called out to him and he quickly ran away. I didn’t get a good look at him, but I hoped he was doing better after getting back with mother.

This morning, just as our overnight guests left for their day out, they came back in to inform me that there was a dead kitten under their car. They said that they tried to get it to move, even tossed small gravel near it in hopes it would move, but nothing.

My heart sank.

I took a box out to the car and asked the gentleman if he could help me gather the kitten up. I had explained what we had tried to do and that the kitten had even bitten me. As he tried to use the shovel to move the kitten, the kitten moved back.

It was still alive …. Barely.

He was able to pick him up and we placed him into the box. I grabbed my keys and off to King George Vet Clinic I went. How strange to be returning here after brining KittyKat here just a few months before.

I didn’t think the kitten would make it to the vets though. When I brought him in, I didn’t even open the box for fear of what I might see. I let them know what had happened over the last few days as well. This of course throw us a whole new curve.

After they looked at him, they let me know that he was still alive, but barely. I told them that I didn’t think he was going to make it. They agreed. They let me know that because he was feral, we needed to find out what caused his death. For my sake.

So they put him to sleep.

Even though it had only been a few days, my heart broke. I don’t know if it was because he was so small and so innocent or if it was because he looked like KittyKat. But to see such a small life taken so quickly. I asked how old he was. I thought he looked like 4 or 5 weeks. They told me he was more like 7 or 8 weeks. I wanted to cry.

So now that he has passed, the vet will be contacting the health department. They will be sending him to Richmond today to be looked it. In about two days, we will know if he had rabies or not. Let’s hope not. I don’t relish getting rabies shots.

I understand the circle of life. I understand life and death and that it is a necessary part of life here at the plantation. But what angers me is that this death could have been avoided. Since coming here to the plantation, we have seen a fair share of feral cats. We know most of the ones here on the plantation are results from family pets that have been allowed to continue to have kittens after kittens with no regard for where they go and how they turn out. Most become feral and live a tough and short life. With the larger animals in the area as well as the busy highway, these kittens have a very short life expectancy.

So if anything, I hope this story will educate others on the need to have their pets spayed or neutered. It is the kindest thing you can do for them and for the babies they could have.


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Tis the Yuletide Spirit

Nov. 28th 2014

November 28, 2014

This last few days at the plantation have been so busy as we were preparing for Thanksgiving Dinner with our family and friends. We had guests booked almost every day this week. The only day we didn’t have guests was Wednesday. It turned out to be a rain and cold day with even our first snow flurry. Thankfully, no snow on the ground. After last years snow, I think I am pretty good not to have any at the plantation this year. Here is hoping though I don’t think it will happen.

Because I knew the Wednesday was going to be cold and wet, I decided to do all my shopping on Monday and Tuesday. You know, just in case we got a freak snow storm that socked us in for the day. Don’t laugh, it would be my luck. On Monday, I spent take looking for some things we need for our Christmas decorating here at the plantation. I needed mostly to find some LED light strings that were battery operated and had a timer on them. Our power outlets are limited here and I know I didn’t want to run around turning on and off Christmas lights this year. I also need some small black lanterns with shepherd hooks to line the entry lane. I thought my best bet would be to hit “And That”, a discount store in Fredericksburg that carries just about anything.

As normal, I was pushed for time on Monday and I debated going or not. But I knew if I didn’t, I would find them there later and they would be almost sold out. So I thought, “I will just run in and see if they have it or not.” You know to rule them out later if I needed to look elsewhere. So in I rushed, knowing I had only 30 minutes to get in and out. We had guests arriving between 4pm and 6pm and I needed to get back.

I did find the lights I needed there, but as always when you need lots of them, they only had two. I pulled a sale person aside and asked if they might have more in the back. She said no, but she thought we could order them. Order them? I didn’t know you could do that at this store! Big question was, when would I get them? This week? Really? Let’s do it! Of course they didn’t have the black lanterns that I needed. But at least one thing can be marked off the list.

I decided not to leave without taking the two lights I found. You never know if you might need them. When I went to get in line, the customer service line had two ladies with carts overflowing with items. I walked down to the two cashier lines that were open only to see both had two customers in each line with their carts overflowing. This wasn’t good. I had just ten minutes to get out and on the way. So I walked back to the customer service line and ask the cashier if they had an express line. She replied, “This is the express line, but it doesn’t always work that way.” While she was telling me this, the lady in front of me, looked at me and my two items and turned her back on me.

I looked at the first lady in line and saw that the cashier was only half way through her cart of items. So I stood there for a minute or two thinking, “Should I wait or should I ask them to hold these until I returned for the others? Or should I just put them down and go.”

Then it struck me. The lady in front of me knows I have only two items, yet she turned her back on me as if not to care. Now don’t get me wrong, I didn’t expect special treatment. I believe in waiting my turn like everyone else. But had this been any time expect before Thanksgiving and Christmas, the lady ahead of me with ten thousand items in her cart would have offered to allow me to go ahead of her. Yet because it was before the holidays, she turned her back on me.

“Tis the Yuletide Spirit”

You know what I am talking about. That time during the holiday when the sweetest old lady turns into an aggressive monster that pushes and shoves her way through the store to get that last Christmas item before you. That kindly gentleman that turns into an angry ogre as he cuts you off to get that one parking spaces that you had been waiting on as the previous person pulled out.

This morning I woke to read about the Black Friday Shoppers that started on Thursday during the Thanksgiving Day specials. Violent skirmishes fighting over bargains on televisions, tablets and even Barbie dolls! In one location two women started pushing each other over $5 Barbie dolls! In another store, a woman was arguing with a man over a Sony subwoofer speaker while a store employee in a safety vest tries to mediate the situation.


Whatever happened to this time of the year being about love, hope and giving? In the past years, I have come to avoid stores and malls at this time because frankly, people have lost their minds! I have come to hate the commercial side of Christmas. Why is it so important that we get that last “Tickle me Elmo”? Remember that one? I bet you can’t even remember that toy is today that you spent four days camped out in line at Walmart for? So what do you have to show for it?

Well, lucky for me, another cashier came along and took me out of line so I could get out on time. She was so nice and I think she could see the stress in my face and I pondered over what to do. So despite that “Yuletide Spirit” that others may show at this time of year, I know that is hope. There are those out there that feel and live the true meaning of Christmas.

I know I want to make sure I am one of them.

With this thought, today I will be spending the day doing tours of Belle Grove from 1pm to 4pm and then greeting our overnight guests between 4pm and 6pm. In between, I will be working out our Christmas decorations. We will be working on getting things in placed for our December Candlelight Tours starting on December 4th to December 21st. Our Candlelight Tours will be from 7pm to 9pm Thursday – Sunday.

We are excited that we have two florist, Mason King George Florist from King George and The Flower Guy Bron from Richmond helping us with the interior decorations. Dawn with Mason Florist is decorating the Formal Dining Room and Bron from The Flower Guy is decorating the Ladies Parlor.

If you are crafty and would like to volunteer helping us decorate the outside of Belle Grove or the interior Grand Hall way, please let me know. We will be working on getting the fresh greenery cuttings this weekend and will be decorating this weekend until Thursday morning. We would love any help that we can get! The more the merrier! Just contact me at 540-621-7340 or email us at

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Latest Arrivals… Late Show

Oct. 15th 2013

I am sorry this took so long to get out. When the seamstresses finished hanging the curtains on Friday, most of the day light was gone. So I didn’t get a chance to take pictures. On Saturday, we had several unexpected tours of the house (which we love), but before we could get pictures, we had guests check in. Our guests didn’t leave until Monday, which is a good thing.
So today, I finally got pictures of the new curtains to share…. Whew!
The seamstresses brought both the Conway and Hipkins-Bernard Junior Suite curtains, which included the bedroom area, sitting room area and the bathroom. We still need to get the Full Tester Canopy for the Conway Junior Suite and the Faux Half Canopy for the Hipkins-Bernard Junior Suite. Those should be here within the next week or so!


Conway Junior Suite with New Curtains


Close View of the Conway Curtains in the Bedroom


Conway Suite Valance


Conway Suite Sitting Room Curtains


Close up of the Valance in Conway Suite Sitting Room


We love this bead work on the Conway Suite Valance!


Conway Suite Bath Window Valance


Conway Suite Bath Window Valance Close Up


Hipkins-Bernard Junior Suite – New Curtains


Hipkins-Bernard Suite Bedroom Curtains


Hipkins-Bernard Suite Bedroom Valance Close Up


Hipkins-Bernard Suite Bedroom Side Valance Close Up


Hipkins-Bernard Suite Sitting Room Curtains


Hipkins-Bernard Suite Bath Window Valance


Hipkins-Bernard Suite Bath Valance Close Up

One surprise we received on Friday was a new rug from an auction on Thursday. We got a last minute email from our design team at Gates Antiques in Midlothian, Virginia ( that they had seen a rug they knew I would like. Because we had a guest on Thursday, I wasn’t able to make it to the auction, but Jay Gates took care of us and won it! I think it looks wonderful in the suite with the new curtains!


Hipkins-Bernard Suite New Rug


Hipkins-Bernard Suite New Rug

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