Sunday, August 23, 2015

Floor plans to help with the dreaming!

So many of you have asked about the layout of the inn...I admit is is difficult to imagine being in it in person! When we first moved here, for a week, I found myself going up or down the wrong staircase to try and reach a room I was aiming for. It's not that the house is that big, but the way that the two houses are joined together make some things really connected, and some things not. And it took a few days to figure it out. :)

These are VERY ROUGH plans...yes, I can do better, but these will give you the general gist of everything, and then you can go online and see photos of the particular rooms for windows, and fireplaces, and if you still have questions, please ask! (BTW, yes the fireplaces work. The basement and dining room have gas stove inserts, the rest we burn ecologs in, seasonally.)

English basement...only 2 steps up/down to outside, big windows in each room. The bottom of the page is the front of the building. We currently live on this level.There is one full bath, and one half-bath. The floor is poured concrete, or loose-laid brick. The front two rooms are approximately 20' x 21'

The main level to the inn...double pink front doors and the porch are shown at the bottom of the page. We call the joining hall the Breezeway, and it's got a sofa/chairs/guest kitchen area and half-bathroom. The ceilings are about 10' high. Great wood floors, all have been refinished except the Peony Room. Again, not exactly proportional - most rooms have  a king bed plus other furniture and plenty of room to move about. Refer to photos for a reference of what the individual rooms look like, this will give you an idea of their relationship to one another. The room we currently use as an office was an enormous guest room when we first came - with a separate bedroom, and sitting room, and we used it as such for a while. It had an entrance from the back porch, but we closed off the bedroom area (could be reopened easily) for our massage room, and still found the space plenty big enough for either a guest room office/sitting area for us. This fireplace has a gas line to it, but currently no gas logs or stove, because we just didn't need it set up that way.

This is the third floor of each house...they are not connected to each other, and both the Willow and the Robin's Nest rooms have windows that look out onto the Breezeway rooftop/skylights/and at the shingle roof of the 1832 portion of the inn. The front windows look out over the front lawn and vineyard. These two rooms have exposed beamed ceilings, very high.  The Dogwood room is the charming peaked attic room...we lived in this area when we first moved here, because it is very large. The small room to the right has a built-in daybed under the eaves.

Last important building on the grounds (we didn't count the toolshed, gazebo and chicken coops as 'important') is the Cottage. We have it divided into two rooms that we rent separately, though it's fun for a group too. We never lived out here because it's so popular - but if you were looking for a bit of privacy, this is an adorable space for owner's quarters. Originally, it was built in the 1990's for the previous owner's aging parents, so it actually has plumbing for a kitchen, and 220v for a stove. It's about 300 feet from the back of the inn. Very modern feel, with vaulted ceilings, and attic storage accessed by pull-down stairs. There is also storage underneath, accessed around the back under the deck, because this is built on a slight slope...the front is just slightly above ground level, the deck outback is about 8 feet off the ground.

Hope this helps! It's fun imagining how the spaces could be used differently. When we came, the basement level was the restaurant...the rooms on the left were the dining rooms, and the room connected to the full bath was a guest room. We have used these rooms as dining rooms also, but a few years ago decided to move the dining room upstairs. It does make for lots of carrying up and down from the kitchen, but we also have a lovely brick patio that we serve breakfast on when the weather is nice - and that's out the side door, on the basement level (to reiterate - it doesn't really feel like a basement...the windows are big, and it's just 2 steps up to the patio or backyard to get outside. The kitchen also has really nice big windows beside the hood and it's bright.)

Happy planning, and happy writing! It's such fun to read the dreams and plans of everyone...I know that it's going to be tough to choose, but what an awesome day that will be, when we can finally call the winner!

Monday, August 17, 2015

The Story of How We Came To Do This Contest Thing.

This is by far, the most common question! Just today,
The swing stays...Ariel, our puppy, does not.
guests enjoying the swing out front(yes,even in this heat!) asked us WHY are you leaving such a beautiful place? It's also the most common question asked by reporters - and to be fair, it's a long and tedious answer, so no one is going to be able to report it just right, 1) because I tell the story differently every time, and 2) because it isn't that interesting. But it's a good question,and people are asking - so I thought I'd lay it out all right here. Then, no matter what story you read that might only have room for one part of the explanation - you will know the whole story, because I am telling it now.This will be TMI for many people - but it's what happened. If you just want the rules, go to Once upon a time, a long, long time ago...

...about 8 and a half years ago actually, we set out to own High Meadows. The property was for lease - and that was good, because we couldn't have afforded to purchase it for the 1.6 million dollar asking price. For those keeping track - this was 2007. Real estate values, anyone? Yes - very, very high. So - the inn had been closed for a while, and it was winter, and the place needed a lot of love. We loved it! We leased it for a while from the people who had loved the inn enough to renovate it the first time, then extended the lease another little while...all hoping we would someday be able to purchase the inn outright. Spring of 2010 rolled around, and a very supportive family member who knew this was our dream - made purchasing the property possible!  Yay! Part of the owner-financing required us, in 5 years, to make a balloon payment on the property. Not a bad idea we thought, as the business was growing and we had plans! Yay!

Well, those 5 years sped past quickly. We had been working on a 'regular' business loan through our bank that would take care of the balloon payment, and enable us to build cabins, revitalize the vineyard, and maybe even add an event barn for weddings. By fall of 2014 I was in planning mode, clearing brush readying the land for cabins, and we had even hired an amazing assistant innkeeper, excited about adding 5 new rooms by spring of 2015!Yay!

But things didn't go as I had hoped...and we were not able to get that bank loan (BOO!HISS!), so in February of this year, we began to think of other options. I heard about the Center Lovell Inn contest in Maine - that became a possibility in the back of my mind, but really a 'last resort'. We set up a GoFundMe. And I reached out to good friends asking for help. This is where I get emotional, thinking of ALL THE AMAZING friends I have! I am not kidding...we had people telling us how much this place meant to them, how much we meant to them, and contributions of LITERALLY everything from one dollar and up came our way. There is no way to explain how inspired I was, and how excited I was to keep moving on with my plans. I also had the very good fortune of meeting an amazing man, a friend of a friend if you will, who after many conversations, and questions, and meetings - all of which made me really think about my business inside and out, and love it even more - was going to become my partner! And this guy, well, suffice it to say - HE IS AWESOME. If I could have written down the qualities I'd want in a business partner, he would have every single one. I was excited to learn from him - and most special of all, he understands the quirky, enchanted craziness we have going on here, and he likes it. So awesome! Double Yay!

Then, life happened. Or in this case, death. My eldest sibling, my brother that I looked up to and adored for as far back as my memories will go, died of a traumatic brain injury. The injury was sustained a while ago - it had happened suddenly, crazily, an overhead door at his workplace hit him on the head, and an hour later, he was forever different. So it's not that this was unexpected exactly, it's just that his death finally happened. I have lost grandparents, but you sort of grow up knowing that will happen. For me, this was different.

It's a classic time when you lose someone you love, to take stock of your life. We've all seen the movies. That's how it was for a matter of a day, maybe two, my path forward became crystal clear, as my mother and I talked. She was ready to move 'home' - to Florida. For real. Soon. My children, both teenagers now (they were 4 and 7 when we moved here!), have different needs than when I wanted High Meadows so I could work from home, and be there for all the things young children need. Now, they want to be able to take trips, or be loud, or spread out with friends - be teenagers - and I want that for them. Having this as a home and a job rolled into one suddenly was simply not the necessity it once was. My full-steam ahead approach came to a halt so fast...and I said no to the amazing offer of a partnership with one of the most inspirational men I have ever known. (This is the ONE little part of my story that I still wonder if I will regret!)

With the whole-hearted support of the previous owners, family, friends and colleagues - I decided to run the essay contest. You hear the cliche 'a weight was lifted off my shoulders' often...but that's the closest thing to how light I feel after making this decision! I know it's exactly the right decision at exactly the right time! The inn is busy and growing, but there is room for someone to make it their own.There are still a few showers that could use updating. (that's a future blog...The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly). The vines need replanting - or perhaps someone else will want something else! We have some fall repairs to make around the inn as we do every year, but I'm not repainting everything as I had planned - because in a few months, someone else will have the joy of choosing colors that speak to them.

So that's The Story of How We Came To Do This Contest Thing. Incidentally, though those are all the reasons why I made the decision, there are nearly as many reasons why this is truly the perfect way to pass on this particular inn...I know there will be people who don't like, or simply don't get the idea. They aren't the ones who would love it up here anyway. The people who will want High Meadows are creative, think-outside-the-box optimists and dreamers. People I know I will be friends with, and who will love High Meadows as much as we do, wrinkles, worn thresholds and all.
My favorite old threshold in the English basement, in the kitchen. It's part of the 1832 portion of the inn.

Win the Inn!

So here we go! Our local Charlottesville paper the Daily Progress sent an awesome reporter, Bryan "Mac" McKenzie out to talk to us last week about the Essay Contest. We are starting with our local friends getting the word out, knowing it will spread as others hear about our awesome inn. If you didn't get to see the paper, here's a link to the article on the front page - nice photo of my mother with her sassy new haircut, too! (by the way, the dahlia on the table is from the garden...we have gotten a few survivors even with all this rain!)

I will be posting later this week some answers to the most frequently asked questions, some guidelines for where to find information (everything is in the Official Rules) people are looking for, etc. Pretty much, everything you'll need to know to enter or to follow the contest will be on our blog, some fun stuff on our Facebook page...but mostly in the Official Rules. Updates will be sent via email to anyone who has entered, for anything an entrant might need to know.

And we'll be getting press - which is nice! Just remember, if you are planning on entering, make sure you always refer back to the Official Rules...ever play that childhood game of 'operator'? Where one person whispers something in another person's ear, and then it goes around the room, and by the time it gets back to the first person, it's a totally different statement? Yeah, that can happen. The rules won't change, they will always be found here on our website, and so will any other pertinent, accurate information. Facebook will be fun to interact, but since comments can be made by ANYONE, the best place to have your questions answered is here on our blog and website. We're keeping this anonymous, so don't jeapordize your entry by not reading the rules.

One last comment on who can enter - obviously not our family, but you'll notice we did not exclude friends. That is such a vague word sometimes, and we have met so many people through the years passing through the doors of the B&B, who we would consider friends, yet who are not connected in such a way that they should be excluded from the that's the reasoning there. And it's also the reason that it's so important that those of us selecting finalists and ultimately the winner, read essays anonymously. The integrity of the contest is the most important thing to all of us!

So - what's your dream? Might it include this happy house on a hill? Someone out there is perfect for High Meadows, and it is perfect for they even know it yet? Spread the word, if you know of someone who should enter! We have loved being here - and I can't wait to meet the next owner of High Meadows.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Essay Contest

I thought I'd write about several other contests happening around the state and country...there are quite a few, and I do have some favorites! Here's the list, in no particular order:

Blue Hill Inn, Maine
Street view of The Blue Hill Inn

I love this place! Owner Sarah has taken time to get an online contest done right...the official rules are clear and she obviously has the right intention. Good Luck to her and the team at The Blue Hill Inn! The next owner of this property will be lucky indeed. The current owner also had the very good fortune of a front row seat to the most talked about contest lately, The Center Lovell Inn - which was featured on everything from the NBC Nightly News, to the Today Show. Clearly she has learned from their small mistakes. This is an inn ready to move into the future while embracing it's past. Just lovely! $150 and 200 words.

Rock Spring Farm

View of the main house at Rock Spring Farm
Imagine life on a tranquil 35 acre farm on the Rappahannock River in imagine that life could be yours! This essay contest giveaway property is my favorite of all those that are not necessarily income-generating properties, though even here - there is a rental cottage. About an hour from Williamsburg, this farm is rural - but isn't that ideal for horses, or goat, or llama or alpacas? A farm sancuary? I imagine the possibilities here are pretty broad, especially if you can work from home, or make your living with the animals. This also has the perk of the house being built in this century! $200 and 1,000 words gives you ample room to woo the judges.

The Claiborne House B&B

Another inn located in beautiful Virginia, this one down in the Southwest corner, near the birthplace of country music. This B&B has already seen one family raised here, it's time for a new one! Five rooms is the perfect size to manage for one person or a couple, living and working from home. It's a great life, and it can be yours for 200 words and $150.

Finally,  our own 
High Meadows Vineyard Inn

Thanks to Meredith Sledge for this pretty spring photo! 
We have just over 13 acres in the cute Town of Scottsville, plenty of room to make this the farm of your dreams, with meadows and old pastures, a pond, a stream, and pretty woods. The vineyard is not currently in production, but the infrastructure is all here and ready for whatever you want to do. Our inn gets rave reviews, and has been an award winning restaurant as well...will you continue that tradition? We are rural enough for privacy and country life, but less than 20 minutes away is Monticello, a World Heritage Site and Charlottesville, consistently ranked as one of the most desirable small cities in the US to visit or to live in. The property is close to Dave Matthews' Blenheim vineyards & winery, First Colony winery, Thistle Gate, and over 30 others. Breweries, cideries, great restaurants, and great swimming holes are all within a half hour, or a half mile! Washington DC is 3 hours north, and accounts for the vast majority of our visitors, and is an easy getaway when we are craving the Smithsonian. We truly have the best of everything here, and we are so happy to be giving a chance to someone else to make their dreams come true. Our contest details will be announced August 17th, just one week away - it will be $150 to enter, and you've got 300 words to tell your story. Stay tuned and help us spread the word!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Making lemonade out of lemons!

First of all, let me start by saying I LOVE LEMONS. A slice of lemon with salt makes my lips pucker just thinking about it, and plain water with a squeeze of juice is so refreshing! Baked, preserved, sweet or sour, lemon curd, lemon pie, lemon pickles...and yes, even lemonade - truly I love lemons, so this silly saying always makes me laugh, because if you start  with something you like, then of course the outcome of any effort to improve on it is probably going to be great!  It's appropriate then to describe the past few months here at High Meadows, and the decisions we have made regarding our stewardship here. It's been emotional, to say the least.

 The support and love from friends, guests, family and pretty much everyone has been unending, eyeopening, and truly life changing. I am going to try to bring everyone up to date without too much backstory or digression...

One of the first things that most of our friends and family have been wondering is 'What is the status of the inn?' Many of you donated and pledged support towards a rather large balloon payment on the property mortgage that was looming, and potentially going to stand in the way of our future here. I was humbled by the support of so many people! We love what we have been doing here at High Meadows, and were grateful when things worked out for us to continue living and working at the Inn. However, despite what seemed to be the answer to our prayers only months prior, we were faced with other, more personal challenges...and after several weeks of discussion, the decision was made to pass on High Meadows to her next owner.

I won't lie - it was an incredibly difficult decision to make, and there are small moments when I question a few weeks ago, when 4 sisters staying with us hugged us goodbye and thanked us so sincerely for making their getaway so special, and I wondered if this is exactly what I am supposed to be doing - making people happy, because it makes up happy in return!  Those moments of questioning have been welcome - because it is with a very clear heart that I look forward to whatever is next in my family's journey. They are also welcome, because it's clear that we have made something wonderful happen here, built on the love of those who lived here before us - and it is time to pass it to another someone to love the inn, the property, the house - and to make it their own.

As anyone who knows me, or who has been to High Meadows will tell you, I don't do ANYTHING the 'right' way. If it's quirky or strange, or wildly wonderful - I will try it! So why then just put the inn 'on the market' up for sale? Purchasing an inn like High Meadows would be expensive - well out of the financial reach of lots of people who might really love her, and be really good at this innkeeping thing. Frankly, it was financially out of our reach when we came here...but we were lucky to start with a lease, and then lots of creative financing. Yet practically, we have a mortgage on the property to pay off, and family expenses - there is certainly a 'number' that we need to achieve if we sold the inn in the traditional way. So imagine my joy at reading about an ESSAY CONTEST being run in Maine to pass on another historic inn, the Center Lovell Inn! The current owner actually won the inn 22 years ago in an essay contest, and was passing it along again the same way.The new owners will be opening soon, and the previous is happily retiring...what a joy for all involved! I loved reading about it several months ago, and now, presented with my opportunity to find someone to love High Meadows - I find this solution to be ABSOLUTELY PERFECT.
So an essay of 300 words or less, on a topic such as 'Why I'd love to own High Meadows Inn' or 'The Future of High Meadows with Me', a potential innkeeper/farmer/homesteader (let's face it - we have over 13 acres here plus the house...the property can be almost anything!) will send in an entry fee of somewhere around $125-200 (we haven't ironed out all of the details yet) and their essay...and to the best/most creative essay - the prize will be High Meadows! With enough entries (we are hoping for around 5,800)our family will be able to turn over the property and the business free and clear to the winner...who takes over as the next owner for the price of their entry and a few hours' writing time. What better way to set the next future innkeeper up for success! In addition, I get to put High Meadows into the hands and heart of someone who will love her. Obviously, there will be some tax,training, and transfer issues for those of us involved - but we believe it's nothing that a successful, growing business and gorgeous property like High Meadows can't handle for the next owner!

We are so excited! Details will follow soon...we are building an online entry form, and working out the official rules. We are working on a marketing calendar to get the word out - this can only work if we get enough people who want to try their hand at a creative essay! The contest is slated to begin around August 17th, and run through November 30. I will need time to read all of the essays, narrow them down, then send the finalists to the judges - 3 people not connected to the inn, but whose opinions I value - who will make the final decision of the winner. We will call the winner on Christmas morning - what a gift this will be to the future innkeepers of High Meadows! So...wish us well, and keep an eye out for contest updates. The next few weeks will be somewhat quiet as we work behind the scenes to get the website in good working order, (though we'll be able to accept entries through the mail as well) then we are looking forward to a busy fall of blogging, press releases, community support, and finally of reading about the hopes and dreams of those wanting to be the future of High Meadows Inn!

Be happy for us, be excited for the future owners of High Meadows, and if you think you know someone who would be a perfect fit for our little bit of heaven up here, pass this along! Follow us on Facebook, and check back around August 17th at for online entry information.

We have truly loved every minute of our time here - and can't wait to meet the next owner!
Cynthia, Nancy, Francis & Sophia

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Oh Henry.

There's a certain amount of trepidation and excitement felt when moving and beginning a new job.  For me, High Meadows was an instant hit, but still, you know some things will be different.  High Meadows itself is truly different; what do you expect from two houses built within 40 years of each other during plantation days, and then joined at the hip? I expected to work hard, meet new people, and enjoy the beautiful Virginia countryside.  I did not expect Henry.

If you've stayed with us before, then you've probably met or heard of the late, great Mr. Henry, our resident peacock.  Henry was stately and handsome, and boy did he know it.  His favorite past time was strutting along the stone path towards the gazebo, fanning out his brilliant plume, and slowly rotating like a model on a runway for the inevitable visitor standing 10 feet away with a camera.  Of course, being from Missouri originally, I didn't know people sometimes owned what I thought of as exotic, zoo-only birds.  I felt that, over time, Henry and I developed a sort of professional-ish bond; he watched me as I worked, and I took pictures of him on my phone and echoed his calls with an admiring whistle when I thought he looked lonely.

However, Henry was unfortunately lost to us this summer.  A few theories float around to try and make sense of his disappearance, but no none can explain for sure what happened to poor, lovely Henry.  It has been far too quiet this fall and winter without him.

Needless to say, I was ecstatic when Cynthia announced we'd recently accepted a new member into the High Meadows family--a young peacock! It's too early in the year for his beautiful tail feathers to be shown off, but his neck is a lovely, iridescent green.  He's a wee teenager compared to Henry, but he is sure to enjoy the grounds and visitors to the inn just as much as his predecessor.

We haven't yet named the new peacock, but I'll follow up with it as soon as a decision is made.  In the mean time, leave your suggestions in the comments and come see our new peacock!

--Written by Dannah

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Martin Luther King Jr Day Approaches!

Hi, I'm Dannah!

Since moving to Virginia in April, I have been working as an assistant innkeeper here at High Meadows and have now witnessed the house in each season.  It seems winter has moved in; the cold snow lightly settled among the trees sets a comforting contrast to the warm coziness inside High Meadows.  Excited children celebrate the area's first official snow day today, while we are taking advantage of the quiet day to prepare for the upcoming three day weekend that is Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

I am looking forward to the warmer weather expected to come just in time for the holiday.  What a holiday it is going to be--we are booked! Nothing like an extra long weekend to enjoy the area's wineries and attractions, like Monticello...and nothing like cuddling by the fireplace at the end of a full day.

If you are unfortunate enough not to be amongst the lucky travelers who booked a room here at High Meadows this weekend, alas I feel your pain.  You will most definitely miss out on an excellently cooked breakfast prepared by Cynthia, and truly warm welcome by Nancy this weekend.  You will not take a luxurious bubble bath in one of our house rooms.  Nor will you book a massage with our talented masseuse, Tarja, pondering briefly while you relax the sad lot of those who are not enjoying your three day weekend vacation.  However I offer this word of hope to you, my forlorn traveler: winter is not over and there are still many opportunities to come stay with us!

Winter is such an underrated season to travel when there is still so much to offer.  Tourist attractions and restaurants are less busy, and the hills and mountains of the area are beautifully highlighted for the season.  High Meadows is a short distance to the slopes when you feel the call of winter sports.  Not to mention that the quickest fix for seasonal depression is taking an extra two days off work to get away and unwind (in fact we're conducting a non-clinical survey here at the inn; side-effects include: happiness, sleeping in, and a reluctance to return to the office).  In short, take a winter retreat to High Meadows.  We can't wait to have you!