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.

 

save this tiny planet

“My message is that we’ll be watching you. You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet I’m one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!”

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Retracing your Steps

They say there is no going back, not in time or otherwise, yet we all feel that pull to see it as we once did, whatever that it might be. Perhaps the core of this is best expressed in Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, in Act III, during that iconic graveyard scene when the dead speak.

EMILY: But, Mother Gibbs, one can go back; one can go back there again . . . into living. I feel it. I know it. Why just then for a moment I was thinking about . . . about the farm . . . and for a minute I was there, and my baby was on my lap as plain as day. 

MRS. GIBBS: Yes, of course you can.

EMILY: I can go back there and live all those days over again . . . why not?

MRS. GIBBS: All I can say is, Emily, don’t.

Warnings aside, we did just venture back to an ancestral place, one that will always have a place in my heart, and although I did discover how powerful the draw to return to one’s past can be, the present is always available, and exactly that, a gift.

Mohonk Mountain House

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Frontyard Blooms

My summer officially starts tomorrow with the lighting of our Solstice fire. I like to think I align like that, all celestial and heavenly, but even if it’s total coincidence, I’m claiming the divine timing. Regardless of when my summer or yours starts, it is certainly time to exhale, stroll around the yard, peer into the blooms, discover what is needed to remember yourself as a creative, healthy, strong adventurous being. How about your summer goals?  How do you plan to connect to you? Continue reading

We All Need A Graduation

This day, when our seniors cross the stage to receive their diploma, always causes me to reflect on the meaning of Graduation. Meaning that I find monumental and liberating but also frightening and paralyzing. I watch with a degree of envy as the Class of 2019 steps out of the solid world they have known forever to embrace all the newness of tomorrow. From time to time I consider my own ‘graduation’, although a few years off, certainly on the horizon. I wonder, how will I step forward? How will I face inevitable challenges and happy surprises? All the unforeseen and unplanned despite my best calculations? I watch each high school senior mount the stage, study the surety in their stride, follow their upward gaze, listen as they cheer each other on, and wonder, can I emulate their optimistic adventuring spirit? Can I be that audacious? Smile at each dawn?

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Backyard Blooms

Come May we are overwhelmed by fragrance and color, flowers popping everywhere. Seems like every year I suggest the same, that we all take a moment to enjoy every vibrant aspect of the season. You’ll be so glad you did.

Nine Cent Girl

doorphotoRight out my front door the brilliance of the azalea causes me to pause, take a deep breath, observe their magnificence, and then, slowly, move into the day’s demands. For Spring is fleeting bursts of brilliant blooms that blossom for oh such a short time and then blow about in the blustery breeze vanishing before your eyes.

No matter your geography, I hope you can smell the sweet sweetness in your backyard, park, or neighborhood…From the low lying tiny blooms to the grandiose flowering trees, Spring delight is everywhere you find yourself.

I encourage you to take in the delicacy of the bloom, the aroma of the spray, and the blush of the plants photographed from my backyard and revel in this ephemeral season for a brisk moment.

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Livin’ with Flowers

Just about at every corner of my yard, pathway into the woods, or view across town is brightened by various buds and blossoms from dandelions to trillium and everything in between. Red and blue and yellow are all back, as is every shade of green. Seriously, living with flowers is just good livin, right?

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