Picture: walking up to a wooden garden gate, under an arch of vines, into a courtyard littered with jars storing honey, hollow gourd birdhouses, (warg) skulls, and miscellaneous gardening tools. A covered porch arched perfectly with the slope of the hill showcasing iron letter openers, fire pokers, and door knockers, all hand made by the proprietor. 

Inside, are cushy armchairs, paintings and pencil sketches from movie stills and artwork alike. A massive copy of the map to the lonely mountain. A corner cabinet and shelves stocked with glass jars filled with beans, grains, and preserved vegetables. On the small wooden table, a porcelain cake tray laid with homemade seed cakes beside a bottle of blackberry wine. Furs and leathers, satchels and walking sticks. A copper basin for a sink, and the warm glow of the (albeit electric) fire.

This is what awaits, at the Hobbit's Dream airbnb in Fairfield, Virginia.

I had the immense pleasure of spending a couple of nights there last winter with my best friend, when they managed to get a booking in January, and I managed to find a way to travel from Maine in the thick of winter. A hobbit hole and my favorite person? Of course it was going to happen.

Run by Randy and Linda Holland, the house was built by Randy and furnished by the pair, borne from a love of Middle Earth and crafting hospitality for their guests. They have gone to many, many lengths to ensure an immersive experience, for those who love Tolkien's world, and those looking for a trip back in time. The house has some modern amenities--electricity and running water to start, but a hot plate, kettle, microwave, and mini fridge as well. There is no oven and they ask that you keep cooking to a minimum (it is an underground house so there are not a lot of opportunities for ventilation). There is no television or radio, but there is wifi, along with several books and magazines, notebooks and quills.

On the property there is a small pond where they have created a small "Buckleberry Ferry," or rather, a floating dock with a table and chairs. A hiking trail winds along the property, walking now beside a creek, twisting through fields of prairie grass, and up to an picnic table overlooking the Blue Ridge. Randy also leads several workshops to include in the experience: making a wizard's staff/walking stick, a wooden pipe, a corn husk broom, a copper ladle, or a blacksmithing workshop where you make and get to keep an iron dragon's head fire poker. I had the pleasure of attending the blacksmithing workshop, and Randy is extremely patient, kind, and knowledgable, drawing out confidence in students just as you draw shape from the iron.

I would love to come here in other seasons. January was beautiful, as we could see through the trees, and the colder outside air made the interior feel that much cozier. But I would love to see the early spring flowers blooming on the hill, or the lush green of the Shendandoah valley in summer, the garden harvest in late August, or especially a visit in the crisp nights of autumn while the bright leaves still hang from the trees.

For three days, we lived like hobbits. We ate simple meals of soups and baked potatoes and fruit, drank coffee by morning and wine and tea by night. We hiked through “Mirkwood” forest. Along the trail were cairns to indicate intersections and turns, a panoramic view of the valley, as well as a meditation stop with perfect east facing views for sun salutations, and tibeting singing bowls. And don’t forget the giant spider lurking in the trees! My only disappointment was that we didn’t find cocoons of dwarves hanging from the trees, or hear partying elves (though to be fair, we didn’t walk it at night). Our last full day there, I did a blacksmithing workshop, heating and twisting iron for the first time. Now I have a dragon’s head fire poker I can use, imbued with the energy of this retreat and my own strength and awe. 

Coming home from the beach I always want to open my house. Make it airy and filled with sun and wind, brightness and relaxation. But real life is not filled that way.

But this. 

In our homestead, we need the jars of beans and preserved vegetables. We need a garden with tools piled beside the gate, and brooms hung from the wall. Copper pots hung over the stove and dried flowers and herbs decorating the rafters. 

Homey isn’t really the right word. It’s too enchanted, too otherworldly for that.

But it certainly is home.