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Dear Milk Streeter,
I know that fall is here because the mice are coming in from the fields. In fact, my neighbor Doug just sent me a photo of a mouse chewing a hole through a wall, trying to escape through the base plate of a thermostat. In Vermont, we have very determined mice!
The end of September marks the start of rabbit season (runs through mid-March) as well as bow season which begins October 6. And then, of course, rifle in November and black powder in December. We have a pretty good crop of wild apples this year, although the acorn production is low after a couple of strong years. I’ve seen quite a few deer in the woods recently; Tom has seen one or two bucks as well. I have two game cameras up already; will be checking on them in the coming weeks.
In the country, buildings have history. Every time I drive by the Yellow Farmhouse, I think of the 1960s when Junior Bentley, Marie Briggs and Floyd Bentley were in residence, plus the two dogs, Bonnie and Dixie. I remember the Kalamazoo wood stove, the cast iron pan that was always half-filled with bacon grease, the green metal hand pump in the sink for water, the smell of yeast, and the green linoleum floors. Other buildings are just cellar holes now; the spot where the ghostly woman in white was seen riding bareback in the woods or the foundation of the old sap house where Fred Woodcock used to do the sugaring. And my favorite spot is on top of Red Mountain where the fallen-in remains of an old farm are still there–the main house and a couple of barns. How the residents survived winters, I have no idea. I do know that the valleys were often considered unhealthy places to live, more susceptible to fevers and the like. But it’s still surprising to find a homestead near a mountain top when a horse and wagon were the only means of transportation.
Just down the road from my house, the Sheldon Country Store was abandoned for many years and then used as a residence. It has a spring-loaded dance floor upstairs (great for an old-time square dance). Some of my neighbors are trying to buy the store and turn the downstairs into a meeting place and café (although no Starbucks!). For social gatherings, we already have the volunteer fire department and Sherman’s store but as in many small towns, there is a divide between the main and west side of town which are only a couple of miles apart. Each has their own post office and church. I almost expect to meet a local who has never been to the west part of town. Some Vermonters just don’t like to travel.
Our town also has abandoned graveyards, fallen-down hunting camps, an old quarry, stone walls high up in the mountains, and, not too far away, the site of Shays' Rebellion, a Massachusetts farmer who refused to pay taxes levied on his farm while he was serving in the Revolution. He was chased by Federal troops up into Vermont and spent ten years hiding out in the mountains, supported by locals. Vermont has always been thought of as an outlaw state—it was pretty hard to track people down if they went to ground up in the mountains.
I just got back from Beirut, filming for the third season of Milk Street Television. (Click here for our station finder.) I fell in love with the people and the food–fresh, simple, and delicious. I had hummus at every meal in Lebanon and it was light, brightly flavored and wonderful. (You also find “ful”– similar to hummus but made with fava beans–on every table as well as many other chickpea salads, some with olive oil and others with yogurt.)
I did have one version in Beirut with a meat topping (kawarma) although our recipe is spicier and, dare I say, better. It makes a great supper with flatbread on the side. In the Middle East, hummus is often eaten for breakfast. In Israel they serve it with small, sweet onions (nothing like the harsh onions we are used to).
I have also posted a few photos from this year’s Old Home Day Parade that I described in last month’s letter. I feel very lucky to live in a town where people cheer at fire trucks going by and where the firefighters volunteer their time and purchase their own gear.
Old Home Day
All you need is a flatbed, a tractor and a statue and you're all set for the parade!
The theme this year was "Heroes." Jed, one of my neighbors, did a float with Mr. Rogers as the hero complete with working trolley.
He also built a walking tree with an owl!
Big sign for a small kid.
The biggest float was this one with the Revolutionary War as a theme. They fought the battle up and down Main Street.
Green Mountain Boys (and Women of course)
Not quite sure what this walking coffin was up to.
Fire trucks come from all the neighboring towns. They throw candy to the kids as they go by.
This float was about sugar makers, our Vermont Heroes. Our family makes maple syrup but we don't always feel like heroes!
We like to remember our veterans here in Vermont.
Everyone gets to drive something, even the elementary school set.
My neighbor Doug, like lots of old-timers, keeps a wall of license plates on his barn. Some of them are only three digits.
Marching bands are am important part of the Old Home Day parade very year.
Vermont mice are determined! This one chewed a hole in the back of a thermostat to get out.