Oh Christmas Tree

Sprucing up for the holidays? How do you bring in the green? Oh Christmas Tree!

Nine Cent Girl

There is a cut-your-own tradition in Vermont with Christmas trees. Decades ago when my family first started to have Thanksgiving here, we’d tag our tree during that long weekend. Then, weeks later, we’d head back to the farm, with sled in tow and saw in hand, we’d try to find our special tree. There were years when we’d have to trudge through feet of snow, and on hands and knees, dig our way down to find the trunk. Frozen fingers wrapped around the saw we’d tug back and forth until it was cut through. Oh those fresh trees would fill the house with everything Christmas. Sweet pine. Cold air and snow. Even the mountain view came into our living room with that smell.

Christmas Tree Farm

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Giving Thanks

There are many days that come in with a brilliant dawn and race into blue. Days when every piece fits with precision and one knows exactly why they are doing what it is they do. These are the golden days we cheer on, the days we hold on to, the very ones we celebrate. But there are others. Messy and awkward and ugly. When we wander, lost, lonely and even in fear. Today, we gather those up too, as we scoop up the mashed potatoes onto our too full plates, and unburden ourselves with those who know us, and yet, love us still.

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Dark Month Survival: Part Two

November can be a cruel month indeed… but little celebrations will see you to the end with cheer!

Nine Cent Girl

Darkness arrives before weIMG_8214 get home from work leaving us without much cheer to face the long night. To survive, we need to celebrate the little moments. This November I say take whatever flimsy excuse you got and congratulate without reserve. Work out in the gym five days in a row? Boom, Celebrate! Manage to wake up before hitting snooze to meditate with Oprah and Deepak? You’re a hero, Cheers! Remembered your keys, cell phone and wallet, for once? Take a bow, Santé!

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the witch hunt

@realDonaldTrump

“…..the call with the Ukrainian President was a totally appropriate one. As he said, “No Pressure.” This Impeachment nonsense is just a continuation of the Witch Hunt Hoax, which has been going on since before I even got elected. Rupublicans, go with Substance and close it out!” [spelling all his my friends]

Did he cry Witch Hunt? Again? A term he has tweeted close to 300 times like rapid fire at all of us? Of course he did, because if there is one thing this president knows about lies, is the power of repeating them. “Calling himself the victim of a witch hunt allows Trump to label charges against him as not just inaccurate but fundamentally impossible. Witch hunts, by definition, are illegitimate, their victims innocent, their judgments always wrong” (Markham- Cantor). Is there anyone who believes he is innocent? Not even Trump claims that verdict. He boasts his lies like a prankster proclaims laughs.

Having just finished Arthur Miller’s The Crucible with my Advanced Placement English Literature students, who, due to the large number of theater kiddos in the room, read with passion and gusto, it was as if John Proctor and Abigail Williams and the rest of those iconic characters peopled my class. When Abigail, in all her initial seductive coyness said, “A wild thing may say wild things” they predicted that Proctor’s sin of adultery would unravel around him, and that she had indeed “an endless capacity for dissembling”. In Act Three John lets loose his shame, “I have know her, sir. I have known her.” “You–you are a lecher?” The crux of the Salem Witch trials fought over land tracks and false blame and stifling fear all come to a “pointy reckoning” when the innocent hanged “high over the town.” My students were hooked on every word like greedy fair-goers, ready to watch as lies replaced fact and insanity trumped reason.

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thank our farmers for the view

Growing up in suburban New Jersey, our open places were mostly golf courses, an occasional park and a random old graveyard. Of course there were patches of trees or cliffy areas that broke up the continuous housing or industry, but little open land like those I have grown accustomed to in rural Vermont. My dad was a man who needed to roam a bit, especially after a day in surgery and the hectic commute from New York City to our suburban New Jersey town. He walked the nearby golf course daily, even in the winter months, cutting through under the clustered oaks and evergreens which formed a respite from the sprawl. On occasion I would tag along, and it was here, in these mini-woods, that he taught me to sit in silence. Not the kind of stillness that one finds in Vermont forests, but at times, as the wind picked up, you could be transported momentarily into a peace. Now, as I leave my work place in the afternoons, I too look for that same solace from the natural world. So much of our open land is in jeopardy. For once these small and struggling family-owned dairy farms are gone, so will the grazing pastures, the hay fields, even the acres of corn that have shaped our iconic New England landscape.cows in the pasture on a misty morning

The art teacher and myself, along with a young woman from the Lamoille County Conservation, brought a bus load of students to visit four farms, the first that has been in the same family for generations. We stood watching as the mist settled down low and the spine of the Green Mountains appeared and disappeared and appeared again. As the farmer talked about his favorite part of the day, starting at 4:00 am, he described walking the cows out to pasture just as the sun rose and the whole sky filled with light. It was a daily gift that he prized, for decades and decades, seven days a week, and, when he described it, his face lifted with sublime joy. There was no one listening who would deny that was indeed a gift.farm on a misty morning

He talked hardships too. Eight children but maybe not a one who might be able to take on this life style once he is gone. Hundreds of acres all open, all cleared by his herd, and his labor, might be lost. Last winter, one of his barn suffered a roof collapse after a massive snowfall followed by heavy rain. We saw the broken rafters split and still laying helter-skelter in disrepair. Money is tight. Actually, money is nonexistent. We saw that reality etched across his brow too.cows in the pasture

We left him smiling as he set to continue his daily routine and boarded the bus to our next farm just a few miles away, in yet another million dollar location. This dairy farm has been run for eight generations. Imagine? Organic milk and maple syrup. At least 1,000 of those taps are into buckets, so that sap is still collected by hand. We heard all about the herd, which are all named. Generations of them too.

Here too there is worry about the future. For a while organic milk seemed to be the answer to the low prices, and many small farms made the switch, but now, with all the nut and other varieties of “milk” these farms are struggling each day, each eighteen hour day, all seven days in the week.

Vermont farm in the morning

No matter where you looked while touring the local farms, you saw labor. In the very pregnant cow waiting for her delivery, and in the continual raking and haying and cleaning and milking and feeding this life demands. Once again, we listened to these (female) farmers talk about raising children on the farm, the happiness they felt having their children working along side of them, the pride they have in the work, the endless hope they have, despite the way the numbers are always sliding into the red. One of the women talked about her drive to create the best quality organic milk, from the happiest cows, cows that could just live like cows. As we drove from one farm to the next, the farmers began to echo each other. They all voiced how they just wanted “to create the best of the best.”

pregnant dairy cow

“It’s not an easy way to live, but it’s a good way.”

hay in a barn

“If you can be happy enough, you can carve out a good life.”

“Driving a tractor outdoors on a beautiful day, you just can’t beat that.”

So, how do you thank a farmer? For starters, find out where they sell what they are producing, and buy local. Perhaps pop in and see what a barn looks like, and what it takes to keep that whole enterprise standing, along with all those acres required to feed their herds. After that, think of them when you vote.

 

let no man put asunder

As we slip closer to becoming the dystopian world we used to chuckle over while reading the fantastical novels of our youth, I now wonder about ever leaving the house. Even then paranoia creeps in while watching/listening/reading the news. It’s melting ice caps and fire storms. It’s waring tweets from men plenty old enough to know not to taunt but daily they do. There’s corruption in Facebook, phone apps listening, and Amazon with one-day deliveries causing insurmountable mountains of cardboard. Gun violence passing epidemic proportions that not even George Orwell would have imagined. Rational stuff gone daft too, like the inability to debate issues in Congress or use Science as a base for fact. Everyone is distrustful of any branch of government. People are retreating, especially the L.G.B.T., unsure if our marriages or jobs or civil rights will stand this latest round of Supreme Court discussions.

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