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Happy March from The Grove... and what a weird-weather month it's been. It started out so warm that some of our azaleas were starting to bloom on March 1st, and then we had snow, followed by rain, then 70-degree sunny days, a little thunder and lightening thrown in for good measure, but then a tornado warning... well, you get the idea. I have no idea what the CrAzY weather may be doing to the garden, but it's probably as confusing to our flowers as it is to us.
ANOTHER HGTV UPDATE! Thanks to Roni Noble, I have an update on the next airing of The Grove's "If Walls Could Talk" episode. It will be on the HGTV channel on April 30, 2008, 6:00 PM ET (but check your local listings to make sure). Like every episode of that show, it is thirty minutes long, three houses are featured, and The Grove is the one in the middle. It also features the bassets, Lily and Delaney!
On March 7th, we woke up to an incredible sight... it was snowing in Jefferson! I know a good friend and GroveZine reader who's probably already typing an ranting email to me, since he told me that one week this month he was shoveling six inches of snow off of his driveway up in Michigan and he probably doesn't want to hear about beautiful snow. Still, it's a little more rare here in town. I think that the last time that it snowed was on February 14th, 2004 - on Valentine's Day of that year. The flakes were huge this time, as big as I've ever seen, and although it wasn't sticking to the roads, the entire city was like a picture postcard. I had a ton of things to be doing instead, but I couldn't help just getting in the car, riding around, and taking photos.
For St. Patrick's Day weekend, we teamed up with Lisa & Mike from Falling Leaves B&B to enter a batch of Irish Stew for the St. Patrick's Day cook-off over at Otstott Park here in Jefferson. We got together the night before to start preparation of an old family recipe that my great-great grandfather Shamus Whitington used to cook up at his pub in the small village of Kilkenny, Ireland. It's been passed down through my family for the last several generations, hand-written by Shamus on the back of a parchment menu from his pub. Even though the paper is crackling and the ink is fading, the recipe is still the best stew that you'll ever put in your mouth. There's even a legend that preparing this stew will summon the leprechauns, and there is actually a story handed down from Shamus about one late friday evening when he'd made a pot of stew and the little people suddenly came out of the wooded glen to steal the recipe from him and then... well, okay, okay, I'm just making every bit of this up. To be honest, we simply snagged the recipe off the internet, and had never even seen it before. Still, it was fun getting together to cook it up. You can see the stew team together just before judging in the photo. The result... well, we didn't win, but we had a ton of fun, ate a LOT of Irish stew from all the other competators, and gathered a lot of data for next year. We'll definitely be entering again, and this time, with a vengence! We've taken that basic recipe, shared it with true Irish chefs to get their input, and started tweaking it for the 2009 competition. We have a year to refine and polish it, and we'll be doing just that. In the mean time, extreme kudos to the folks at the Chamber of Commerce, Charlie Chitwood of Chitwood Sports Media who headed up the event, and Juanita, Jefferson's tourism director, for holding a St. Patrick's Day that's going to keep growing and growing. Want to join in the fun? Just get an Irish Stew cooking team together, start working on your recipe now, and come have a Jefferson St. Patrick's Day in 2009. I'd anticipate that B&B's, businesses, and individuals will continue to enter, and the showmanship on the entry tables is going to increase. This is going to become bigger and better every year - but watch out folks, we're planning on winning in '09!
Last month I announced that my new book was out - a collabroation with my grandfather, an old country preacher - on the 23rd Psalm. This has been a very unusual book for me... very different than any of my others. It seems that every day or so I'm hearing very kind words from readers. I can't take any credit, of course, since the theology belongs to Granddad, even though the words weaving it together are mine. I just wanted to say thanks to everyone who's been sending me emails about 23. If you want any more info on the book, just check out the website:
I try not to bee too critical about movies, but honestly one of the dumbest movies that I've seen in a long, long time is a horror flick called "Silent Hill". I apologize if it is anyone's favorite movie, but we were watching it a few nights ago and the female star was being chased by the little blue creatures that were almost identical to the ones in Tim Allen's "Galaxy Quest" movie (a great show, BTW) and we both looked over at each other and said the exact same thing: "This movie just crossed a very weird line." It was such a bizarre, out-of-place occurrence, that we decided to stay with the film just to see what else happened. Parts of the movie were interesting, but others - like the little blue guys, who by the way experienced spontaneous combustion - were never explained or re-visited. But I'm telling you all this to share another story with you. Tami and I were doing the laundry as the movie progressed, and at one point we paused it to fold some towels that were dry. We were in the laundry room and laughing about how bizarre the show was, when suddenly we heard a woman shrieking wildly from the den. We jumped about a foot in the air, looked at each other in complete panic, and then simultaneously realized that the pause had simply snapped off on the movie and it was playing on the television again. Loudly. We then burst out laughing, realizing how ridiculous we'd been, but it was just one of those fun little experiences in life. It's odd that the things that scare us at The Grove aren't the ghosts, but the easily explainable things that happen along the way.
A psychic that visited The Grove a few years ago told us that one of the spirits here is that of a former owner, the lady of the house in her time, who loves to come back and visit. When she is here, according to the psychic, she walks through the rooms and is still keeping house here. We were told that if we ever find something changed - a light that was on is now off, a door that was closed is now open, or some item that has been moved - it was probably her just putting her touch on things. Those kind of things do happen, but we always try to explain them away. Something happened this month that we can't simply dismiss, though. Although my publishers and distributors handle the shipping of my books, when someone orders a signed copy from the website I'm notified to ship out a book personally. Such was the case a week or so ago, and one evening I'd packaged up the three-book order and had it ready to go. I put it on the end of the island in the kitchen so that I'd remember to take it to the post office the next morning. I saw it as we were shutting things down that evening, but the next morning when I walked into the kitchen after getting out of bed the package was gone. I'm not kidding - even though I knew that's exactly where I'd left it, the package was no longer there. My first thought was that someone had come in, but all the doors were locked... and of course, I can't imagine someone breaking into the house and taking only a package of three books. Where did it go? We have no idea; if it follows the pattern of other things that we've had happen like this over the last six years, then it will probably show up in a strange place around the house sometime in the next few weeks. Since the books had to go out, I signed three more, packaged them up, and took them to the post office before something could happen to them as well. This is why you'll hear us sometimes say that living at The Grove isn't scary, but it can be annoying...
On the Sunday morning tour a week or so ago, we had moved from the front porch into the parlor, where I told the story of Frank & Minerva Stilley - they were the builders and original owners of The Grove. As I began to tell the supernatural side of the parlor, one lady didn't seem surprised at all that I was talking about a presense that was in the northwest corner of the room. She was standing in that spot, and told everyone that as soon as we'd walked into the room, while the rest of her was warm, her elbow (which had been pointing toward that corner) was cold. Sometimes that corner has a very distinct feeling to it, and it often manifests itself in temperature. If something is going to happen on the tour, though, it is usually in the den. Activity in the parlor is most often reserved for when the house is still and quite... except for that particular Sunday morning tour.
We've been doing the tour for five years now, and over that time we've seen some incredible photos, heard some unexplainable EVPs, and witnessed some dynamic personal experiences, all that have taken place on the tours. Occasionally something happens that is so outside of the norm that it really catches our attention, and such was the case one weekend this month. Just as we finished the tour a gentleman told me that his wife wanted to talk to me afterwards, because something had happened to her in the course of the hour. We get that occasionally, so I didn't think much about it - I figured that she was going to tell me that she'd seen a figure walk by, felt a presence in a corner, or encountered a cold spot in the house. The couple hung back for everyone to leave, and then she told me her story... and I found it incredibly interesting. To set up what she had to tell me, first let me cover a few points of the tour that many of you who've taken it will be familiar with. In the parlor, there is one corner that is especially active; we strongly feel a presense there several times a week. More than one psychic has told us that it is a female spirit and that she is very possessive of the house. A couple of different people who are sensitive to the supernatural side of things have told us that her name is "Rachel," but we've never been able to find someone by that name associated with the house. Another part of the house's history is that James Young, son of the barber Charlie Young and his wife Daphne, hung himself on the back porch when he was twenty years old. As a side-note, that back porch was later enclosed and is our bathroom today. Okay, all that said, after that tour on the day I was talking about, the lady told me that she had been having a recurring dream over the last several years about a woman named Rachel who was in love with a young man named James. In her dream, Rachel knew that James was going to inherit the family home, which she loved. Unfortunately, James was a "man about town" and cheated on her frequently. Rachel was distraught, and finally took ill and died. James felt responsible for her death, and took his own life - by hanging - out of remorse. The lady on the tour was simply blown away as every story that I told seemed to be a piece in the puzzle of the recurring dream that she had been having. Now, was she dreaming about the Young family and this house? There's no way to ever know... but I have to say, it certainly is an interesting explanation to both the lady in the corner and to why James took his own life. I guess that we'll have to leave it up to history to decided.
Like I've said in the GroveZine several times before, occasionally odd things happen here that are electrical in nature. You may remember that when Showtime was here filming, they caught on tape two different electronic instruments held by two different people failing at the same time - and both of the instruments had fresh batteries in them. I don't know how to explain it; most cameras and recorders were perfectly on the tours, but occasionally something happens and a camera that was working before the people got here suddenly stops functioning at The Grove. Such was the case a week or so ago - a family was on the tour and in the course of things I could see that they were passing their camera around and everyone was checking it, but I didn't know why. At the end of the tour, the gentleman told me that they'd taken many, many photos on the ghost walk the night before, so before The Grove tour they stopped by a store to buy fresh batteries. They put them in just before we started, and after taking only one photo in the parlor, the camera showed that the batteries were dead. They took them out, put them back in, checked to make sure that they were facing correctly, and basically did everything that they could think of to make it work. But it didn't. Not the first time that we've seen this happen, and it probably won't be the last - all just a part of life at The Grove!
Thanks for continuing to read the GroveZine - it's great to have you along for the ride. We have a wonderful time every month putting the GroveZine together, and sincerely hope that you enjoy reading it!
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