Dear Milk Streeter,

Have you ever met a dog who seems a whole lot smarter than some people that you know? My neighbor Tom has three beagles—he keeps them for rabbit hunting—and when one of them slips the leash, he doesn’t run after him. He just calls Camden, his black lab, who runs after the beagle and sits on him until Tom catches up. Just part of the job.

It has been a cool, wet spring so the corn is late—by early June, it was just starting to come up. The old expression—“Knee-high by the Fourth of July”—may not come to pass this year. Of course, the cooler vegetables have been in the ground for some time, but the tomato plants are finally out, though they also are on the small side. Tom installed a “Bug Hotel” in his garden. It looks like a birdhouse with an open front and it’s filled with bark, twigs, leaves, hollow reeds and other bedding materials. It is supposed to attract the “good” bugs to help keep the bad ones out of the vegetable garden. Will report back in September.

Tom hunted hard during turkey season. He called in a large Tom (the turkey, not my neighbor!), but the bird became suspicious and wouldn’t come the last 30 yards. He did call in four jakes (young male turkeys), but they were too small to shoot. Wouldn’t put enough meat on the table.

I set out for a long afternoon hike recently and ended up in a new spot. I wouldn’t say I was lost exactly—I knew about where I was—but I came across a stream that was running the wrong way! (At least, I thought it was.) It was one of those moments when it’s best to sit down, eat an apple and do nothing for a few minutes instead of striking out in a fit of panic. I thought it through and finally headed up to the top of a ridge that I thought I recognized. Sure enough, it was a familiar spot and I was soon headed back down to the cabin.

Lots of bear around this spring. One of them climbed up on the roof of one of our bee houses (built to safeguard the hives). He managed to reach his paw down to the top hive box and grab some honey. Lots of bear hoots heard during turkey season; I’ve seen a lot of bear scat in the woods, as well. The scariest sound one is likely to hear in Vermont, however, is a fisher cat. I heard one two years ago right before sunset during deer season and it was chilling. Prefer to encounter a bear than one of those.

One of my other neighbors, Doug, is having his second or third childhood. He grew out his hair and just bought a used BMW K100 motorcycle. The guy he bought it from was an old-time Vermonter who had rigged up a broom handle as a foot rest and two sawed-off plastic milk cartons attached to the handlebars to hold sunglasses. Everything in Vermont is either homemade or jerry-rigged.

On a recent Saturday night, Tom, his wife Nancy, and I grilled venison steaks over his fire pit set just back from a small stream. In typical Vermont fashion, the pit is made with a septic tank riser (new, not used!). Potatoes wrapped in foil went into the coals and we started the evening with bourbon and branch water. I’ll take that sort of eating any day over a fancy restaurant. Better for your soul, as well as your pocketbook.

July 4th is almost upon us, and that means our town parade is coming up. Now that Charlie Bentley has passed not quite sure how the draft horses will be handled. (A team usually pulls the bandwagon.) But I’m sure that the donkey will be wearing a red, white and blue spangled hat and the band will play Grand Old Flag. Some things never change.

I leave you with a true story about a farmer and two bull calves. He went in for breakfast in Hoosick Falls and left two bull calves hitched up in his trailer; he was bringing them down to auction and didn’t expect to get much for them. When he came back out, he looked in the trailer and saw four bull calves! Guess someone else didn’t think they were worth much either.

Enjoy summer.


Christopher Kimball