Stumbling Towards Spring

 

Notice the beautiful compost bin at the end of the rainbow!

 

I don’t want to brag, but this winter my husband and I built a compost bin and installed a fence around our (chicken-less) chicken coop. We count these among the proudest accomplishments of our nearly 15-year marriage, neck-and-neck with those four daughters and those economics publications.

A little background: Last August, we moved to a house surrounded by twelve-and-a-half acres of open land. This move was the result of A Vision. There was absolutely nothing wrong with our previous house, which was surrounded by an acre of woods and rocks — nothing wrong with it at all, unless you had A Vision of small-scale gardening and animal husbandry.

So we moved to a house where we could turn our Vision into a reality. Where we could plant gardens and fruit trees; where we could establish a small poultry flock and add some pigs or a couple of goats in time. The idea was to buy a little land, really care for it, and use it to grow the things that our family was most likely to consume.

(There is nothing new about this Vision: Since Scott and Helen Nearing first left New York City for Southern Vermont in the 1930s – and perhaps even before then – its various iterations have been called things like “the good life,” “the back-to-the-land movement,” and “homesteading.” Also: “reckless idealism,” “backbreaking labor,” and “folly.”)

Here is one challenge we face: Our new little slice of heaven has never, so far as we know, been used as anything other than a hayfield – and even the hayfield had fallen into scrubby neglect by the time we bought it. There were no gardens, no outbuildings other than an open shed, and no effort had been made to care for the soil. We are starting from scratch.

Here is another challenge we face: Inexperience. Other than caring for polite perennial gardens and one short-lived flock of laying hens, we have no prior experience with growing or farming. We feel like suburban kids playing pioneers, which is exactly what we are.

But here’s what we have going for us: We know how stupid we are.

Click here to continue reading my latest “Faith in Vermont” column in The Addison Independent.

Reflections on My First Town Meeting

 

Every year, around the first Tuesday in March, Vermont feels pretty proud of itself. That’s because, as any Vermonter can tell you, the first Tuesday in March is Town Meeting Day: the day when citizens meet in towns across the state to discuss and vote on town business and budget items (most importantly, the school budget.)

The pride that Vermont takes in its town meetings likely has something to do with the sense of small-town democracy that the tradition embodies. This was evident in the dialogue that took place in Wilmington, which voted overwhelmingly against a measure to replace an in-person Town Meeting with voting by paper ballot.

“I think what you’ve got here in Vermont is a pretty unique situation,” said Wilmington’s Merrill Mundell. “We try to do away with things that are traditional. The truth of the matter is, every time you nip away at it, it takes away a little bit of the special.”

“We don’t agree. But we do agree that the town is important, that the school is important, that we are important,” added Laura Stevenson. “And in a world of fake news, and identity politics…we have to meet each other face to face.”

This year, I attended Middlebury’s Town Meeting for the first time since moving to Vermont nearly six years ago.

Click here to continue reading this week’s “Faith in Vermont” column in The Addison Independent. 

On the Ice

img_8954

Just like that, winter is over.

At least, that’s what it feels like today, as I look out at snowless fields under a sunny blue sky. The temperatures over the past week have been unseasonably warm for February in Vermont, culminating in a high of 66 degrees at our house. Our entire family spent the morning outside: the children romping in t-shirts, the adults starting some early yard work. As if to confirm the change of seasons, two honking V’s of Canada geese flew north overhead.

In all likelihood, winter is not over yet. My online forecast for the coming week predicts temperatures that are half of what we’ve experienced today. Like a cruel barn cat, the Vermont weather will toy with us for a while; it’s quite common to have decent snowstorms here in March, April – even as late as May.

But it feels as if a corner has been turned: If winter isn’t over, we’re heading into its downslope. As I look back upon the winter of 2016-17, it’s certainly not the snow I will remember; the Champlain Valley received very little snow, which came in a few dumps with long, bare breaks in between.

For me, this winter was about ice.

Click here to continue reading this week’s “Faith in Vermont” column in The Addison Independent. 

Surprised by Love

img_8780

The weekend getaway was a surprise Christmas present from my husband.

Throughout our 18-year relationship, my husband has excelled at surprises. While we were dating, he orchestrated a “traveling surprise birthday party” for me: As we walked through lower Manhattan, we kept “accidentally” bumping into friends who joined us for dinner, coffee, cake. It was only when everyone converged at a late-night bowling alley that I realized the staggering amount of coordination my husband-to-be had put into the evening, which was anything but accidental.

Our engagement was a similarly impressive covert operation. No picking out the wedding ring together for us: Instead, my husband (then boyfriend) capitalized on my cluelessness to lure me to a Connecticut jewelry store, where my ring finger was measured on behalf of his cousin in California, who apparently had to have a ring from this particular boutique. On the evening of our engagement, the friends with whom we were supposed to have dinner cancelled at the last minute due to “illness,” so we ended up having a romantic dinner alone before strolling around New York City to view the Christmas decorations. It was only when my husband dropped to one knee under the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree and held out a (perfectly sized) ring, that I had any idea of what was happening.

I like surprises, which has served me well in this relationship.

Click here to continue reading the Valentine’s Day edition of my “Faith in Vermont” column in The Addison Independent. 

New Minibury Column: Our Favorite Things

header

Several months ago, a fellow mother and the founder of local family website Minibury asked if I’d be able to provide some content for the site. This opportunity rolled together many of my favorite things: supporting other moms, supporting good community-building ideas, and writing. Today, my first post in the “Our Favorite Things” series is up on the Minibury website. Click here to check it out!

The concept behind “Our Favorite Things” is simple: Each month, I’ll share with your families one of our family’s favorite things. The goal is to highlight things that are simple, inexpensive (or free!), local, and that promote creativity.

Today’s topic: Popsicle sticks!

[For those who, like me, have tired brains and heavy hearts from following recent political developments in our country (and I suspect that’s everyone), a post about popsicle sticks may seem either a welcome diversion, or akin to fiddling while the Titanic sinks. Here is what I tell myself: No matter what may be happening at the moment, we still need to parent our children. In fact, parenting our children is one of the absolute best things we can do at times like this. So, here’s to popsicle sticks!]

The Cow on the Wall

img_8666

The cow was hanging on the wall, opposite the checkout counter at the Sweet Charity resale shop in Vergennes, and I fell in love with it immediately.

That I was in Sweet Charity, without children, on a Saturday afternoon, was due to a series of anomalous events. My husband was in Chicago for work, so a generous friend had taken pity on me and invited all four of my children over to her house to play for a couple of hours.

Faced with two precious hours of free time after two days of single parenting, I did what any woman would do: I went shopping for home furnishings with my mother, of course.

Click here to continue reading my latest “Faith in Vermont” column in The Addison Independent.