“Under the Tuscan Sun” is a classic chick flick and of late a great deal on my mind. In fact, I feel as if I’m starring in the movie, filming with all manner of cast and crew, right here in Rappahannock. It is an American romantic comedy drama based on a true story and a memoir of the same name, about a recently divorced writer who, through a series of serendipitous events, and on a whim, purchases a lovely yet dilapidated villa in beautiful Tuscany.
She begins her new life with the help of an assortment of charming characters, not the least of which are the men who become practically family, a team of talented all around repairmen/handymen who bring her villa back to its former state of grace. Over time she refines her Italian cooking, using them as guinea pigs and to their sheer delight, serves them extraordinary meals every day while they conquer the villa’s structural challenges.
As a newly minted resident of Castleton, having recently purchased a 12-acre tract replete with a spectacular chimney ruin, the remains of Hands Mill and a country home built circa 1900, filled with sunshine streaming through enormous windows appointed throughout and in extraordinary abundance; 100 year old eye-catching hardwood floors and a porch to die for, yet TLC is so sorely needed.
Much like the movie, I too needed a team of gifted helpers. Patrick Hill of Woodville and his Merry Men, Chris, Russell, Dale and Greg, have come to the rescue, and while they toil daily to restore this beautiful home and property to its original beauty I find myself happily cooking meals for their luncheons; while not complex Italian fare, nor accompanied by rich Italian wine, nonetheless the cuisine is appreciated, their enthusiasm genuine and their hard work so gratefully acknowledged by me and celebrated.
Patrick and his wife Joanna live in Woodville with their four rambunctious and delightful daughters, Cheyenne, Faith, Renee and Summer, all of whom I’ve now had the pleasure to come to know.
Patrick was raised on a farm in Rappahannock, his dad Charlie a breeder of horses, 30 head or so at any given time, and a hardworking man who finds himself atop his large tractor, clearing my property, a property that a recent timbering crew, before my ownership, totally decimated, raping the once lovely forested land and a subject over which, under separate cover, I will write further to include the wise counsel of respected forestry officials, whose advice I’ve sought. As a number of us were standing about, taking a brief break, I smiled and mentioned Charlie’s total focus on his tractor, his obvious pleasure taking on the challenging job of clearing and with nods in unison, the men agreed, “Yes, Charlie is in his wheelhouse for sure.”
He raised Patrick with a strong work ethic, as a young boy he rose with the sun, often much earlier, accomplishing 90 minutes of chores before school, and several hours after, along with homework and dinner there wasn’t time for much else. He grew up learning to be responsible, appreciating the value of hard work and boy does it show. Patrick leads his men with affable charm, his complete focus and commitment, honesty and trustworthiness, the qualities of a role model. He is well respected.
While his business is “Patrick’s Tree Service,” that one dimensional description is in fact a misnomer, erroneous at best. He can do most anything and indeed he and his men have not only begun to clear the land, but accomplished major repairs from a leaky basement cellar, to painting, cementing, caulking, overhauling a large deep seated porch in need of a new roof, and replacement of rotting beams and frame ribs, picking up furniture I’d purchased and carefully placing into welcoming rooms, installing a beautiful wood stove in the kitchen, cleaning out the chimney, soon to be erecting fencing for my horses and constructing a barn. His talents are limitless. He learned his trade early on, climbing precariously positioned treetops for all manner of landscaping services, and under the adept tutelage of Forrest Whorton, known to many as the horseman honoring veterans, often seen along 211 on holidays mounted upon his steed, clasping an American flag billowing in the wind, Patrick has even learned the craft of brick laying. Forrest is Joanna’s dad.
Joanna also has a business, Hill’s Services, a successful cleaning service company. She too exhibits an extraordinary work ethic and their children surely will reap the benefits of their combined talents and parenthood. Thank you so much, all of you, for welcoming me into your fold and sharing your knowledge and skills to give my home a new luster and more importantly sharing your friendship with me.