Saturday, July 30, 2011

Vermont to Montreal July 26th - July 27th

The Galaxy Book Shop in Hardwick, VT
self serve with cash in the till
Amazing roof garden
Nearly all of Monday was spent driving up and down Route 2. I was taking youngest daughter for her obligatory immunizations before college. This was a lot of time in the car - 7 hours due to traffic but relatively easy. Easier than we had thought and Rosie and I enjoyed pleasant conversations and a nice breakfast at Whole Foods on the way out and she was much relieved that the this series of shots was not very painful as the previous ones. I also arranged other important doctors visits as I drove so it was a good day. And if not a vacation precisely at least some stress was removed from the summer. 

The drive to Vermont was delightful. We stopped Burdick's for coffee in Walpole NH and arrived in Hardwick VT in time for lunch. Hardwick has a coop that we visited in 1984 when or eldest was 1 years old. We bought her a T-shirt that had a buffalo and Buffalo Mtn. Coop which she and all three of her sister wore for 15 years. Hardwick is now the center of the 'localvore' movement.  The first site we enjoyed was this window at the Galaxy Book Store 7 Mill Street. They will have one of my fave poets reading in AUG - David Budbill. I wish someone had been in the window. We could have exchanged stories. We had a local produce lunch at the Buffalo Mtn. Coop CafĂ© where the gazpacho was the best I have ever had. Anxious to get out of the car we pushed on Craftsbury to visit our friend Mimi who is the mother of one of our oldest and closest friends, David. Back 1984 we lived together in Cambridge. He was reeling from a divorce proceeding that was tearing at all our hearts and shaking the foundations of our little coop house and community. We were visiting in VT to cheer us and his two year old daughter, Catherine, in this difficult time. I was pregnant with our second child, due in late August. David was separated but still married to Lucy, my best friend from high school. Our friendship and our youthful promise that we would live together and help each other raise our families was the center pole of the three family arrangement in our funky three-decker in Central Square, Cambridge. Robert and I loved Catherine like a niece and our eldest daughter Sira loved her like a cousin. We spent many summers after that visiting David and his parents in Vermont and now our all too infrequent visits are always filled with sweet memories.

On the way to Mimi's there is new farm stand that is owned by Pete Johnson - a shaker and mover, who is responsible for much of this ... article excerpt from  SlowFood blog:

"We all know what local, sustainable food can do for the health of our bodies, but could it also be a cure for the health of ailing economies? Ben Hewitt’s book The Town that Food Saved: How One Community Found Vitality in Local Food delves into this question, exploring the growth of a vibrant local food economy in Hardwick, Vermont, population 3,200. Hardwick is a lot like how it sounds – unemployment in the town is 40 percent higher than the state average; incomes are 25 percent lower. But in the last few years, Hardwick has returned to its historical roots in farming, with a new twist – local, sustainable agriculture. It’s growing a vibrant local food system that is restoring not only some jobs and higher wages, but a sense of community and food that’s connected to it. A diverse network of “agrepreneurs” in Hardwick– High Mowing Organic Seeds, Pete’s Greens, Jasper Hill Farm, the Vermont Food Venture Center and so on - are producing organic and artisanal foods and seeking investors. Business owners share advice, capital and facilities. About a hundred jobs have been created. Sounds great, but is the story of this one town’s thriving local food system unique, or is it a viable model for other communities? As I read, part of me hoped to find an easy-to-follow plan - just do it like we did! Farm this way, market that way, save the world, take a nap. Sadly, social change isn’t that easy, but while Hardwick doesn’t offer an exact blueprint, it is a thought-provoking example of a thriving local food economy. Hewitt suggests that a couple of unique, and surprising, variables have contributed to the town’s growing local-ag economy: poverty and small size. Hewitt believes that Hardwick’s success is founded upon trust and collaboration which “are in no small ways social and cultural responses to economic hardship.” He also suggests that the population had a “just right” quality that was big enough to be ambitious, and small enough to be fast-acting and flexible. The best lesson to be learned here is about cooperation and inspiration. The Town that Food Saved is a story about the ability of a group of likeminded folks to come together in pursuit of a passion for sustainable, local food– not without challenges, but with dedication to a bigger vision. That’s what Slow Food is all about too. If you’re interested in learning more about thriving local food entrepreneurs, BALLE (Business Alliance for Local Living Economies) has some exciting network programs focused on sustainable agriculture.  And for ideas on how to invest in other inspiring small food enterprises, you can check out Slow Money, a non-profit dedicated to investing in local food systems and connecting investors to local economies.

We were earlier than planned but Mimi was gracious and read her book as we paddled around her pond and walked the dirt roads a bit, eating fresh raspberries. Then we watched a huge thunder storm roll in, roll over and pass on. Mimi made a delicious curry chicken dinner and we played a few rounds of banana gram  and slept soundly in a room overlooking pond. A gray morning greeted us as we left later than planned for Montreal. But the drive was pleasant and again, shorter than we had thought. We arrived at our 'hotel' at noon and the room was not ready. We discovered only as we were leaving the next day that we had misread the time and we were a full 2 hours early.

We talk a good game...July 24th 2011

We talk a good game...

Robert and Rosie did the framing of the screen house/shed extension.

Robert and I talk a good game about sweetly "doing nothing" but as soon as the sun went down I was immediately engaged in transferring old family videos to DVD. This is my idea of fun.  I love that the little gizmo in white is now all that is needed to connect and digitize from VHS tapes to .mov files. Back in the day I had to borrow a set up from a film-maker friend that cost about $1000 and was 20Xs the size. This set up was less than 1/10 the cost as well. Early in the AM I set this up to run with tapes of Xmas 2000. But when,  like an old fire horse, I heard Robert pounding nails into his screen house project and I found myself strapping on a tool belt to help shingle while the infernal machines worked on my project.
White rectangle in middle is 'gizmo'
My favorite yellow hammer - which I used for 2 years as we built the houses here in Royalston, felt like an old friend. The hammer is light, well balanced and has an easy grip. But my upper body muscles did not find work familiar and hammering was not an old friend. The only muscle I use in my upper body is my damn mouth. Which came in handy as I convinced Robert that the 90+ degree heat was better suited to blue berry picking. After whacking my index finger, nailing shingles too low and bending and pulling 2 nails to each I sent home, we broke for a quick late lunch. And then we went in search of the low bush blueberries that were sited by Maureen earlier in the week. The roads in Lake Dennison were dry and dusty so we went slowly, drinking in the smells and sounds of summer.

Patti was our guide/companion on the back roads of Dennison and we found the blue berries after a few false starts. The berries were not as plentiful as we hoped. Nothing like the top of Gap Mtn.  I pick berries carefully, eating a lot as I go and with a mind towards cooking and freezing them. Robert picks with a clear "quantity over quality mentality" and I have always been the one to prepare the berries for eating. His is a tough act to follow - it can take hours to get his berries usable! This time I got him to agree to clean and separate the berries when we got home.  He was happy to agree because he was certain I was just being whiny - How hard can it be, really? Just to sort the ripe berries from the leaves, twigs, unripe greens and dessicated grey berries? Well, it took him over an hour to clean about a gallon. I think I have a convert to quality picking. The heat was relentless so we drove down to the lake for a swim. Normally, it takes me many minutes to walk in and get all over wet. I'll dive into anything but I HATE walking into cold water. This time I was in before Robert. The water was about 70 degrees and the air temp was over 90 - my fave conditions for swimming. It was luscious.

We had a quick dinner after our swim and finished the day with more work on the screen house. This has been Robert's project - I have not been any help. In fact, the project has been stalled for years because we could not agree on the location, design and materials. I gave in ( I want a barn with a studio - been promised one for 30 years...bon chance ) and Robert, assisted by youngest daughter, Rosalie, did all the framing during the precious 3 weekends while I worked on grant reports, videos and other matters. It was fun to be swinging a hammer again. We worked in the cool of evening until the bugs drove us in.

The Sweet Doing of Nothing July 23rd,2011

Patti is the gardener.  We appreciate and eat.  She plants, weeds and waters.

Our first day of official vacation involved rising early and paying bills, answering and emptying email in-boxes until 3PM. This seemed an inauspicious but necessary start to a week without internet and sometimes even without cell phone as we would see once we were au Canada ( O,Canada ?). I felt guilty for being the cause of such a late start. But we were rewarded by the beauty and  hushed industry of bees and butterflies as soon as we arrived. The slanting light of early evening gave the garden a  luxiourious butterry wash. Ah. En vacance. I forgot all and simply enjoyed the “dolce far niente” – Italian for the “sweet doing of nothing”.