That sentiment from The Wind in the Willows is reflected at Castleton Lakes, the setting for this year’s Rappahannock County Food Pantry benefit this Saturday.
The home of John and Tracie Jacquemin beautifully incorporates the family’s love of boating and the water — inside where ancient timbers soaked in sailing history form the “bones” of the home, and outside where the panorama includes a 17-acre lake with white sand beach, palm trees and a boathouse docked with kayaks, canoes and paddle boards.
For decades, John Jacquemin drove east from Washington, D.C. on weekends to sail the Chesapeake. On a whim, he turned west one day, and there it was — the Virginia countryside. Smitten by the beauty, he launched the family’s search for a place in the Piedmont.
For John, Rappahannock’s initial attraction was topography and strong zoning that not only controlled growth now but offered a chance of maintaining rural character and protecting natural resources into the future.
“That pushed my buttons,” he remembered.
In 1988, the Jacquemins found their perfect spot, 218 acres of woods and fields with one little farm pond, and the transformation began. With a larger dam, the pond grew to a 15-acre lake that stretches fingers into the surrounding woods.
“We camped, “recalled John. “We brought our little girls out here to swim in the pond, and we didn’t build for 10 years.”
First came the boat house. “A luxurious step up from camping!” he joked.
That apartment on the dock was the weekend and vacation getaway for a decade. Castleton Lakes grew to 500 acres with the acquisition of adjoining properties, and the miles of trails stretched to 13.
By now, the Jacquemins were deeply rooted in the land of Rappahannock, but their community ties were limited. They knew their neighbors, they supported the volunteer fire department and that was about it.
“We were really isolated here,” John remembered. Then the hedge fund manager in D.C. discovered that a business associate lived practically around the corner in Castleton. Sociable horsewoman Anne Pallie began trailering her horses to Castleton Farms to ride, and she brought along an extensive network of friends to introduce John and Stacie into the community.
The more they learned, the wider their generous reach, beyond the volunteer fire department to Kid Pan Alley, the Benevolent Fund, the Rappahannock Association for the Arts and the Community, the Rappahannock League for Environmental Protection and Headwaters. Plus their deepening knowledge of the county’s character left the Jacquemins wishing for more time and involvement here. When they designed their new residence, they considered that second goal and built big enough to accommodate large gatherings.
“We love supporting good causes,” John explained.
Their widening circle included interior designer Mimi Forbes, the window treatment artiste for Castleton Lakes, who in her other life serves as the Food Pantry’s manager. And voila! In a flash, Miss Saucy Bossy Pants (as Forbes is affectionately known to her volunteer minions) had this year’s fabulous French feast set in the wide open, light-filled spaces of the Jacquemins’ New England shingle home, under heart-of-pine beams, centuries old, reclaimed from Plymouth Cordage Company, which was the world’s largest rope-maker back when sail and steam ships each carried hundreds of miles of rope.
And what a feast it will be! The entrees include beef bourguignon, chicken with lemon-caper sauce, vegetarian quiche and mustard-crusted salmon, plus French side dishes and desserts, all contributed by the acclaimed restaurants and B&Bs credited with making Rappahannock a foodie destination.
Local wineries and Wasmund’s Distillery are donating potent potables, and befitting a Food Pantry benefit, raffle items include dinners at The Inn at Little Washington, Three Blacksmiths and Foster Harris House.
“Where can you find fine dining with a better view?” asked Forbes, the sweep of her arm taking in the two-acre wildflower meadow, the jeweled lake surface, the improbable palm trees that grow nowhere else in Rappahannock, and a stunning expanse of fields and foothills in a hundred shades of green rolling to mountains standing sentinel in the background.
“It’s all about the view . . . and the cause,” she added.
“We admire what the pantry has done to make food available to county residents who really need it,” added John. “The pantry strengthens this community.”
The celebration begins Saturday, May 11, at 9:30 a.m. at the pantry in Sperryville with the Ooh La La Pet Parade. Registration begins at 9:30, and critters strut their stuff at 10. Entry fee (waived for pantry customers) is bags or cans of dog food and cat food, costumes are encouraged and all competing critters receive a certificate attesting to their outstanding characteristics.
The French Feast is 6 to 9 p.m. at Castleton Lakes, 603 Castleton View Rd., Castleton. Tickets are $100 per person. For reservations, visit www.rappahannockpantry.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 504-987-5090.