History of a Vermont Sheep Farm
Getting Started: You Can Farm Too!
A Flock of Your Own Icelandic Sheep
A Flock of Your Own Chickens
Growing Your Farm: How the Numbers Work
Dreaming Vermont: Relocating and Living in Vermont

During the foliage season I am what the motorcoach (bus for you laymen) industry calls "a step-on guide." If I worked in a city; New York, Washington DC, I'd make real money at this. Coaches pay up to $250 for a two hour city tour. As it is, I live in Vermont, make markedly less, and dream rural dreams of city wages. If I were the type to join organizations I could even join a national association for step-on guides. Their latest project is lobbying Washington to get nationwide standards. I shiver at the prospect.

I've heard of career planning, I've just never actually done it. North winds of fate blow over the edge of my hill, tumbling me, and maple leaves, along. "You're a native," a friend told me some 15 years ago "you must know something about Vermont... get on this bus." So I did, neglecting to tell him that the definition of "native" includes a note that a native is someone who, if plunked down 40 miles from home, would be incapable of finding their way back and have to marry into the local population. We weren't "turned around" on my first tour, we were hopelessly lost. In a state with only so many roads capable of handling a motorcoach, this is something of an achievement.

Who would have thought helping out a friend with a staffing problem would lead to
years of storytelling to captive audiences? Armed with the knowledge that nobody is going to object, at least in this life, I gravely embellish family history. In truth, I get on busses and tell lies to tourists. If there is a gathering at the Throne, I'm going to have a lot of explaining to do. If there isn't, well, we plant apple trees over our dead... gives them something useful to do in the afterlife.

We wander the state, I tell stories. On our way to Cold Hollow Cider Mill I tell of wooden tubs in cool cellars filled with boiled cider. Of woodstoves and a wedge of cheddar with boiled cider pie. I tell of hot oil and cider donuts rising under a worn linen towel, of coffee perking on the back of the stove, and men yanking off barn boots. I give them the memories they want me to have, and nobody is poorer for the bargain. Some stories grow true by the telling.

I remember Ruth, who decided to save herself a whole dollar by boiling down a gallon of cider to make her own cider jelly... and then, upon reflection, decided to save herself five dollars. So she bought 5 gallons of cider, and commenced to boiling on the back of our kitchen range. When I came in from the barn I asked her at what point she realized she had a problem... when the wallpaper came down in the kitchen or the dining room?

In an old farmhouse, the only thing holding 200 year old plaster to 200 year old lathe, is... 200 years of wallpaper. So at 3 in the morning, the walls fell in, followed shortly thereafter by the ceiling. Fortunately, our furnishings at the time already looked as though a ceiling had fallen in on them. Unfortunately, we discovered the original owners, in the pre-fiberglass days of yore, had chosen to insulate with hay and little mouse carcasses. Equally unfortunately, the decedents of said carcasses were, even now, freely romping through our home. Resolving the situation required several "construction parties" (fortunately we were at that age of youth where young men, ever hopeful for more, will do things for you for beer and bread) and two cats. Ever since, Ruth has made the hour trip, every fall, to Waterbury Center, for her boiled cider jelly.

"Maple trees" my grandmother told me one fall day "Maple trees and apple trees hold time. A bit of past going on almost forever, no matter what else changes."

I've never made cider jelly (although I helped clean up the debris from Ruth's attempt), nor boiled sap in a wash kettle in the back yard like my great grandfather did. Eric Chittenden makes my cider jelly, Burr Morse up in East Montpelier my maple syrup. Yet we clear around old apple trees and save the sugar maples when we're cutting firewood. They might, I tell Peter, come in handy some day.

Secretly I pat my spared trees. Together we remember old women, who look back at us through slate tombstones and a recipe for boiled cider pie.

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Stories From a Vermont Life:

Camilla Blue
Frozen Gifts
Making Wreaths
The Fourth of July

The Farm at Morrison Corner raises Icelandic Sheep on the last hill farm in Mansfield, VT.  Learn about Raising Icelandic Sheep, Raising Chickens, Moving to Vermont and Living in Vermont on this and our other sites.

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