Live More, Commute LessLive More, Commute Less


Country Living Is Just Right For Me!

By Maria Dampman

Welcome to my home, Smiling Cat Farm, located on the outskirts of Purcellville in Western Loudoun County.  We are a small enterprise of a little less than 11 acres of barns, pastures and lots of critters.  Throughout the years, my husband and I have become unofficial “ambassadors” of small homestead living and the rewards of moving from city slicker to rural resident.

Seven years ago, we decided it was time to move west.  As we both have exceptionally busy careers, we dreamed about finding a quiet place where we could unwind and relax after a long day at work.  My husband longed for a deck where he could look up at the stars at night and see them clearly without the distraction of streetlights.  I wanted a home where I could have my horses live with me, raise a few chickens, and hopefully have a nice large garden to grow my own vegetables in the summer.

We moved in with two dogs, three cats, and no farm animals. Here we are, seven years into our farm owning journey, and we now are the proud owners of three horses, two Mammoth American Jackstock, a breeding pair of peacocks, somewhere around 25 chickens, three Miniature Silky Fainting Goats, three cats, two dogs, and three fish.  Looking back at the evolution of how our farm has grown and changed through the years never fails to astound me.

Things that were initially very important to us, like planting a huge garden, have fallen by the wayside as we found that we are just too busy to weed, prune and harvest.  Instead, we now buy our fresh food and vegetables at the local farmer’s market, and have turned that large fenced section into a peafowl yard for our two India Blue peas.  When they are older, they will provide additional income for the farm when we breed them, and then raise and sell the peachicks.

Other endeavors, like raising two Mammoth American Jackstock, which are draft horse size donkeys, were never on our initial farm plan.   After losing a number of chickens to wildlife predators in a short period of time, we realized we needed some form of protection for our egg layers aside from our rooster.  Mammoth Jacks are very territorial, and have the ability to kick through a 4X4 piece of lumber, so can be quite lethal to a fox or coyote looking for an easy chicken dinner.  Since their addition, we have had only a handful of chicken losses from only the most determined of predators.

Living on a farm, even a small one like ours, gives you such an appreciation for nature and for life.  We look forward to the newborn fawns that wander through our fields every year.  The wild turkeys that make an occasional appearance are always a source of excitement for us, as is the harvesting of a perfect heirloom tomato.

Through the years, my husband and I feel like Smiling Cat Farm has made a difference in this world, one person, or one animal at a time.  My two current competition horses were adopted as babies from a rescue in Fredricksburg.  Our dog, Zoey, was adopted after she was found abandoned in a dumpster with her littermates when she was just three weeks old.  The other day, we found a newborn fawn “parked” in one of our stalls, so we spent the day tiptoeing around it until its momma returned to pick it up in the evening.  Every person who has come to our farm leaves with a new appreciation of the work that goes into raising happy, healthy animals and the labor that goes into the food we eat.

But not all things on a farm have happy endings.  Some of my favorite chickens have disappeared from the farm leaving behind only a pile of feathers and our memory of them.  Last year’s tomato harvest was decimated by some sort of tomato blight, and the birds ate every last cherry off our trees before we harvested them. But like the farmers before us, you learn from your losses, and go forward.

Seven years into our newfound lifestyle, I can’t remember the days where I didn’t have morning and evening chores – feeding all the critters, cleaning stalls, collecting eggs, and exercising the horses.  My calendar at home has deworming schedules and veterinary exams written in it next to our own doctor’s appointments and reminders of friends’ birthdays and events.  Our life is so entwined with the lives of our equines, fowl, goats, plants and trees that we now barely know where our needs stop and theirs begin.

Almost always, the needs of the farm take precedence over ours.  If I have a busy day planned of showing homes to a client, I wake up earlier than usual to take care of the critters before I have to leave.  I have cleaned stalls and fed animals with a 102 degree fever when my husband was away on business. When I had knee surgery after a skiing accident, my husband had to do everything for months until I healed.  I have slept in the barn with a sick horse on several occasions.  Luckily, we have phenomenal neighbors who also pitch in during emergencies, and who know that we would always do the same for them.

Our lifestyle is not for everyone. We spend many hours dirty, sweaty and sore from working the farm after a full day at the office. We are often exhausted at night, and go to sleep early to start again when the rooster crows at dawn.  But we love our life, and it has led us to the secret answer of the often asked question of why the farm cat smiles.  He smiles because life, on the farm, is beautiful.

Maria Dampman is a Realtor and Accredited Buyer’s Representative with Century 21 Redwood in Leesburg Virginia.   Contact her at 571.643.1663 or at for any of your Western Loudoun real estate needs.


Save the Bees!

By Jackie Pickford

BEE Educated

Bees are an integral part of our ecosystem, providing more for us than just honey and pollinated flowers; bees provide fruits and vegetables for us to eat, supply food for the animals that we consume, and pollinate many of our resources and food such as cotton, herbs, coffee beans, and more. The UN Environmental Programme states that “of the 100 crop species that provide 90% of the world’s food, over 70% are pollinated by bees,” which exemplifies a world-wide dependence on the pollinators.

Alarmingly, however, these creatures have begun to disappear at a rapid pace. The increasing extinction rate can be attributed to habitat loss, parasites, pesticide use, and increasing temperatures due to climate change. If this trend continues, it will have massive consequences on our daily lifestyle.

What’s BEEing Done

Locally, many organizations are attempting to play their part in the movement to save the bees. One unique example in our area is the Hilton Washington Dulles Airport Hotel, which just recently adopted two honeybee hives in hopes of getting involved in the preservation of honeybees. Each hive hosts roughly 50,000-60,000 bees, producing approximately 40 to 60 pounds of honey annually. The hotel plans to use the honey in menu items as well as providing bottled gifts to VIP members; however, the hotel emphasizes that the primary goals of its hives is to encourage sustainable practices and restore bee health.

Nationally, legislation has been introduced to ban pesticides that are especially harmful to bees and other pollinators. The Saving the Pollinators Act of 2017 would suspend the use of neonicotinoids—a harmful pesticide linked to bee decline—until the EPA could determine the safety of the pollinators based on peer-review studies. Although the legislation is still in the works, it has the potential to not only transform agriculture on a large scale, but also take measures to support local farmers, food systems and
sustainable practices.

BEE Involved

As an individual, there are a number of ways to support the bee movement. First, get involved with a local organization! The Northern Virginia Beekeeping Association (NVBA) and the Loudoun Beekeeping Association (LBA) both work to educate and support sustainable beekeeping practices in the area. Local organizations like the LBA provide mentor programs and offer courses for those who are interested in hobby beekeeping, another way to contribute individually. One can also donate to local organizations like the NVBA and LBA, and support companies that take part in sustainable practices, such as Hilton Washington Dulles, for example. Another simple way to contribute is to plant pollinator-friendly landscapes in backyards or patios and use neonicotinoid-free pesticides. Both NVBA and LBA can provide guidance on this as well.

Overall, the goal is that we BEE proactive in any way possible. The extinction of pollinators would have major social, economic, and physical repercussions on our species, which is why doing our part individually, locally and nationally is so important.


I-66 Expansion to Include Parallel Bike/Pedestrian Path

As construction plans proceed for the high occupancy toll lanes (HOT) outside of the beltway, bicycling supporters are scrutinizing the designs for a parallel bike/pedestrian path that is being included in the project.  Specifically, they are opposed to some plans that will place the bike path directly adjacent to the interstate, citing safety and aesthetic reasons for altering the design.

I-66 trail graphic, Courtesy of Fairfax Alliance for Better Bicycling.



The Fairfax Alliance for Better Bicycling is advocating for a change in design to move the trail outside of the noise barriers that will be constructed.  Neighboring communities are opposed to this option, citing intrusion in the communities and fear of potential crime by trail users.  The current design, places about 5 miles of the proposed 23.5 mile trail directly adjacent to the interstate, separated by a 3 foot concrete barrier and a chain link fence.  The Alliance feels this is neither a safe nor a healthy configuration, exposing users to noise and exhaust pollution.

VDOT concedes that the design is a compromise, contending that the five miles of configuration where the trail is adjacent to the interstate is dictated by narrow right-of-way and adjacent community preferences.  In a Washington Post interview Katie Harris from the Washington Area Bicycling Association noted that “VDOT needs to design a facility that is safe and accessible and convenient for those who travel by bike. These are constituents of theirs that need to have their needs met as well.”

When completed, the trail will link to the existing Lee Custis trail that runs adjacent to I-66 inside the beltway, creating an uninterrupted bike facility from Gainesville in Prince William County, to Washington, D.C. The trail will also provide linkages to the many trails and communities that are adjacent to I-66.  Public comment forums on the design of the I-66 HOT lanes will be held
this fall.


DC’s Wine Country®

Winery 32, House Lake. Photo by Aboud Dweck, All Rights Reserved.

Nineteen eighty-four marks the birth of DC’s Wine Country®. Lew Parker of Willowcroft Farm Vineyards established the original Loudoun winery, planting the first grapes in 1981 on the slopes of his farm that, in the 1800s, were successfully planted with orchards. Loudoun’s fertile soil and temperate climate proved fruitful for other winemakers who followed. Today, Loudoun features 40 award-winning wineries and tasting rooms, the most of any county in Virginia, along with two distilleries including Catoctin Creek Distillery, which is the first in Loudoun since prohibition, 23 craft breweries, and three cideries. Located just 25 miles outside our nation’s capital, Loudoun is known as DC’s
Wine Country®.

In Loudoun, visitors can explore boutique wineries sprinkled throughout the countryside; learn about winemaking from area vintners; talk with vineyard owners about the history of the land and its structures and experience Virginia varietals, surprising blends, and dessert wines. Wine tasting in Loudoun is designed to be a welcoming and relaxing experience. During tastings, visitors are educated about the wines they sip and are encouraged to take their own personal notes; the Loudoun winemaking community believes that wine tasting is as personal as winemaking.

Loudoun’s wineries are grouped into six driving “clusters.” The ride to each is an experience in itself, along winding roads and up mountains, past horse farms and historic estates, and beside miles of stacked stone fences. Loudoun offers a variety of scenic wine tours – by bicycle, limousine, bus or sedan charter. Each cluster also features unique culinary experiences, including Loudoun’s own fresh destination restaurants. Visitors can enhance their trip by spending the night at an area inn, bed and breakfast, or resort, and splitting winery visits over two or more days.


Wine Clusters

Loudoun Heights Cluster

  • 868 Estate Vineyards
  • Breaux Vineyards
  • Cardamon Family
  • Vineyards
  • Doukénie Winery
  • Hillsborough Vineyards
  • Maggie Malick
    Wine Caves
  • Two Twisted Posts Winery

Waterford Cluster

  • 8 Chains North
  • Corcoran Vineyards
  • Crushed Cellars
  • Hiddencroft Vineyards
  • Sunset Hills Vineyard
  • Village Winery
  • Terra Nebulo Vineyards
  • The Wine Reserve
    at Waterford

Potomac Cluster

  • Carroll Vineyards
  • Fabbioli Cellars
  • Hidden Brook Winery
  • Lost Creek Vineyard
    &  Winery
  • Tarara Winery
  • Creek’s Edge Winery
  • Winery32

Mosby Cluster

  • Boxwood Estate Winery
  • Cana Vineyards & Winery
  • Chrysalis Vineyards
  • Greenhill Winery
    & Vineyard
  • 50 West Winery
    & Vineyard
  • Quattro Goomba’s Winery

Harmony Cluster

  • The Barns at Hamilton
  • Station Vineyards
  • Casanel Vineyards
  • Dry Mill Vineyard
    & Winery
  • Hunter’s Run Wine Barn
  • Stone Tower Winery
  • Willowcroft Farm Vineyards
  • Zephaniah Farm Vineyard

Snickers Gap Cluster

  • Bluemont Vineyards
  • Bogati Bodega & Vineyard
  • North Gate Vineyards
  • Otium Cellars

For location information, visit


LoCo Ale Trail

Old Dominion Brewing Company began the craft brew scene in Loudoun in 1989. The company gave its start to many of the local brewers who are producing quality beers today. Two of those brewers, Matt Hagerman and Favio Garcia, opened Lost Rhino Brewing Company in 2011. The brewery paved the way for the brewing industry growth in the county, and while Lost Rhino continues to expand its distribution and tasting room experiences, additional breweries now offer a variety of beer tastes and experiences across Loudoun County, aka LoCo.

Loudoun pairs a modern and urban eastern corridor  with a wide-open rural countryside of farms and pastures along the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the west. Loudoun’s breweries match their local surroundings, as Beltway Brewing, Old Ox, and Ocelot to the east, offer large tasting rooms and refreshing beers close to Washington DC. Further west, Dirt Farm Brewing, Old 690, and Quattro Goomba’s Brewery offer farm brewery experiences with the chance to see firsthand where the beer’s ingredients are grown.

The agricultural side of beer production is an integral part to the story of Loudoun’s breweries. In 2015 Black Hops Farm became the mid-Atlantic’s largest hops processing facility. Virginia is home to compatible climate, soil, and landscape that make it ideal for growing hops, and Black Hops Farm will help expand supply not only to breweries in Loudoun, but up and down the East Coast. Co-located at Black Hops Farm is Vanish, a farm brewery with a BBQ menu, as well as Pilot Malt House, creating a total beer experience
for visitors.

The LoCo Ale Trail is divided into itineraries that allow beer enthusiasts to enjoy the breweries in a multitude of ways. The Farm Breweries itinerary guides travelers along the county beer industry’s agricultural center through scenic tasting rooms where the ingredients are grown onsite. The Brews by Bike itinerary steers those looking for a more urban tasting room experience through the breweries located along the Washington & Old Dominion Trail.


Open Breweries

Adroit Theory Brewing
404 Browning Court
Purcellville VA

Belly Love
Brewing Company
725 E. Main Street
Purcellville, VA 20132

Beltway Brewing Company
22620 Davis Drive
Sterling, VA 20164

Barnhouse Brewery
43271 Spinks Ferry Road
Leesburg, VA 20176

Black Hoof
Brewing Company
11 South King St.
Leesburg, VA 20175
(571) 707-8014

Black Walnut Brewing
210 S King Street
Leesburg, VA 20175

Corcoran Brewing
205 East Hirst Road
Purcellville, VA 20132

Crooked Run Brewing
205 Harrison Street SE
Leesburg, VA 20175

Crooked Run Central
22455 Davis Dr #120
Sterling, VA 20164

Dirt Farm Brewing
18701 Foggy Bottom Road, Bluemont, VA 20135

Dog Money
Restaurant & Brewery
50 Catoctin Circle NE
Leesburg, VA 20176

Jack’s Run Brewing
108 N. 21st Street
Purcellville, VA 20132

Lost Rhino
Brewing Company
21730 Red Rum Road
Ashburn, VA 20147

Lost Rhino Retreat
22885 Brambleton Plaza
Ashburn, VA 20148

Loudoun Brewing
310 East Market Street
Leesburg, VA 20176

Ocelot Brewing Company
23600 Overland Dr #180, Sterling, VA 20166
(703) 474-3050

Old 690 Brewing Company
15670 Ashbury Church Road
Purcellville, VA 20132

Old Ox Brewery
44652 Guilford Drive
Ashburn, VA 20147

Quattro Goomba’s Brewery
22860 James Monroe Hwy
Aldie, VA 20105

Solace Brewing Company
42615 Trade W Dr #100, Sterling, VA 20166

Sweetwater Tavern
45980 Waterview Plaza
Sterling, VA 20166

101-D Executive Drive
Sterling, VA 20166

42264 Leelynn Farm Ln
Leesburg, VA 20176