How Green Is My Cottage

The one-bedroom cottage at Brightwood Vineyard and Farm is eco-friendly indoors and out.
The one-bedroom cottage at Brightwood Vineyard and Farm is eco-friendly indoors and out. (Photos Above And Below By Susan Vidal)
By Elissa Leibowitz Poma
Special to The Washington Post
Wednesday, May 9, 2007

The eggs in the basket of make-your-own-breakfast ingredients delivered to our riverside cottage weren't the starchy white color of a nurse's uniform. These eggs -- these real eggs -- were an assortment of beiges that deserved dreamy names like those on paint chips at a hardware store: Serengeti Dust, Butter Pecan, White Wisp, Harbor Haze.

Using the cottage's energy-efficient stove, we scrambled the eggs into a fluffy, canary-colored pile, grilled sausage from a Charlottesville farmers market and ate our organic meal on Fiestaware with mugs of shiso mint tea. We dined on the cottage's reclaimed-lumber deck overlooking a forest, a river and a stream.

Susan Vidal collected the eggs the morning we arrived at her 100-acre Brightwood Vineyard and Farm near Culpeper. The farm is just 45 minutes from Shenandoah National Park and 25 minutes from Montpelier, James Madison's lifelong home. Thomas Jefferson's home, Monticello, is an hour away, and various wineries dot the region.

Vidal and her husband, Dean, purchased the farm six years ago with the intention of making it completely eco-friendly -- from pasture-raising hens and growing pesticide-free produce to restoring the health of the exhausted soil and preventing runoff into the adjacent Robinson River. And last summer they turned a dilapidated A-frame cabin into a one-bedroom "green" vacation cottage.

A number of bed-and-breakfasts, inns and cottages across the country have adopted the same mind-set and have instituted eco-friendly practices, including extensive recycling, buying locally grown food for breakfast and conserving water. Others partake in more intensive and creative endeavors.

At Brightwood, for example, the old A-frame was incorporated into the design of the new cottage, which has floors made of reclaimed chestnut boards nearly 100 years old. A large tree that stood in the way of the bedroom is now the cottage's main support beam. The porch railings are unfinished cedar trunks from the property.

The farm takes its green approach indoors, too. There are energy-efficient appliances, double-glazed insulated windows (and quite a few of them, to allow in loads of natural light), low-energy ceiling fans, an instantaneous water heater -- even baking soda to clean dishes and unbleached paper towels to dry them.

" We're maybe rediscovering how people did things before the age of progress," Dean Vidal explained as he secured protective blankets of hay atop just-planted elderberry and raspberry plants. "We've gotten away from things that worked just fine."

The Cottage at Brightwood Vineyard and Farm is at 1202 Lillard's Ford Rd. in Brightwood, Va., approximately two hours from Washington. The cost is $155 per night for two people, and $20 extra per person; the rate includes either a continental breakfast or farm-grown ingredients to cook your own. Info: 540-948-6845,

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