Dear Milk Streeter,
Things are hopping at Sherman’s General Store. There is a new woman running the joint who is doing a great job. She's bringing a bit of energy and excitement to the old place, and selling more breakfast meals and sandwiches. She did find an odd-looking baby snake in the back and brought it to a friend who said, “Well that would be a spotted adder!” We are all wondering where the mama snake is lurking. And someone found a very large (at least a one-pounder) dead rat outside the store. Not a great advertisement for the establishment, but perhaps it was not a local rodent and was just passing by. All in all, we love Shermans.
Tom is spending a fair amount of time in the woods posting our land before hunting season begins. There are a few spots where out-of-town hunters make their way onto our land, coming up from a back road or using a neighbor’s property for access. It’s much less of a problem than it was 10 or 20 years ago. There are a lot fewer hunters in the woods these days, but you don’t want to be walking along at sunrise and find that someone is already sitting in one of your treestands! That happened to Tom back in the 1980s. Tom asked the hunter politely to leave, but he refused to move. Tom went home, grabbed his chainsaw, came back and started it up. That got things moving!
Tom and I took Nick and Nellie out to run some rabbits—we left our shotguns at home since the season doesn’t start up until October. Nellie got one running in a half-acre thicket. I waited on the downhill side and, sure enough, after a few minutes a rabbit loped out of the brush, took his time and crossed a small stretch of field into another patch. I’m always amazed how calm and collected rabbits are when being chased by a dog. They are way out ahead and seem to have things well under control. (Tom once watched a rabbit dog run in circles, while the rabbit was sitting happily in the middle of the circle on an old tree stump!) Nick, the younger of the pair, also ran a rabbit for a half hour but forgot to bark! He hasn’t learned to open up yet, though he has a good nose. More training required.
I am already thinking of revising my Thanksgiving menu thanks to Milk Street, which is something I haven’t done in many years. The tea-rubbed maple glazed turkey (in our next issue) is definitely on the list this year—I have to remember to order my bird from Someday Farm in Dorset—and the sweet potato casserole which uses panko and miso is also on the list. I may also try the pumpkin tart, which includes a dose of bourbon. Sounds perfect. Change my Thanksgiving menu? Shocking!
I leave you with a partial list of foods—other than the roast heifer and corn on the cob—that are offered at the Annual Ox Roast held each August: Four fruit salads, seven kinds of baked beans, four potato salads, homemade pickles in an IGA non-dairy whipped cream tub, three pasta salads, two cucumber salads, zucchini casserole, nacho salad, baked rice salad, pink cottage cheese and Jell-O salad, carrot cake squares, peach pie, apple pie, snickerdoodles, blueberry cobblers, banana nut bread, yellow sheet cake with peaches and raspberries, lemon cucumber pickles, no-crust pumpkin pie and an orange cake!
And a few enduring memories of ox roasts past: cloggers dancing to “Cajun Moon” on old sheets of plywood, the partner dance in which 4 year olds dance with 80 year olds, and table lamps duct-taped to thick tree branches for outdoor lighting.
The end of summer is here but in Vermont this is the season when the blood starts to race and things start to look up. It was down to 36°F the other morning. Trees are turning. Bow season starts shortly. The woods are taking on that slightly ripe fall smell. It’s time to bank the fireplace for the night, to bake bread and to start walking the woods to see where the deer are bedding down and which trails they are using this year. And pretty soon a storm front will move in from the southeast with leaden skies and we'll take that first deep breath of the new season. Walk into a small cabin with a roaring fire and stew in the slow cooker after a long day in the November woods and we are content. (My wife prefers a beach in Jamaica but the rabbit hunting ain’t so good there!)
Speaking of winter, the locals say that a heavy crop of pinecones is a sign of a hard winter ahead. The trees are dripping with them this year so look out. By the way, squirrels love to eat the insides of the cones. You can see large piles of pinecone “mulch” around many of the trees where squirrels have been hard at work. They also store pinecones around the tree roots for the winter.
It’s been a good summer. Time for frosty mornings, thick-cut bacon in the skillet and sitting in the woods before sunrise waiting for that first buck of the season.