Old Truck

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It’s been there since we moved here twelve years ago, the old truck sitting in the field. Whenever I walked down the road and turned the corner, there is was, looking at me. I wondered how long it had been there. The first time I saw it, it had clearly rested in the same spot for many years. It sat low, sunk into the soil. Rust showed through the paint. Grass grew taller than its hood. It was an old truck with a story.

The farm where this truck resided had been worked in the past, but the farm sat untended now. The barn next to that old truck was sagging. Each spring the roof would rest closer to the ground. Swallows nested in the rafters. Windows had little glass remaining. The silo’s hat sat crooked, like a man too tired to right his shifted chapeau. The fields, while still rich with grass, no longer smelled sweet with spring cutting. The truck was a witness to the farm’s end.

But why was the truck there, in that spot? It was not parked next to the barn, or in it. It was not simply pulled off the road. It was well into the field, as if someone drove it there with a load of hay for cattle, and just never turned the key again. Or perhaps the truck was on its way out already, and when it would not start, was abandoned. Did a farmer die suddenly? Or did this farming family simply retire?

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It was not totally unused. Someone years ago found it made a good target. Bullet holes pierced the passenger door and window. Mice, I am sure, nested in the seats and dashboard. Kingbirds perched on the roof, scanning for grasshoppers. And it generated stories for passersby such as myself.

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A couple of days ago, whoever owns the place now decided it was time to move the truck. An oversized tow truck backed up and tried to haul it out. The tow truck got stuck. A second oversized tow truck pulled that one out. The old truck ended up closer to the road, out of the ground, but it is still there. The rear axle weighs down its bed. The rusted leaf springs were torn off and lie on the ground. It’s a wreck, but its new position meant I could get a better look at it than I ever had.

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The license plate registration sticker reads “APR 79,” so the thing has been there for 40 years. It had to have been registered some time before April of 1979 so perhaps the truck was abandoned at the end of the summer, maybe even October of 1978, if I can conjecture a bit. Several times I have wondered if the truck could be restored–cleaned up, tuned up, parts replaced, running again. Seeing it in detail now, that idea is dead.

I am sure this truck served its time well. From the day it was purchased at Shearer Chevrolet, it hauled people and tools and animals and supplies. This week, I suppose, it will get hauled away, scrapped, turned into steel cans or furniture frames or faucets. Some might say the field will look better without it–tidier, more natural. They might say that the old truck is junk. But I will miss its stories and, when I pass that way, I will wonder a little bit less.

Berries and Jam

I was afraid that we would be too late to pick blueberries. I drove by the sign early in the morning: Pick Your Own Blueberries. Late August, but not too late. I called Pelkey’s Farm in Charlotte to see if they really were still picking, or if the sign just hadn’t been taken down yet. It was past peak season, the young woman on the phone told me, but there were still plenty. So that hot afternoon my son and I drove over and picked us some berries.

The description I got was about right. The huge berries you can rake off the bushes to fill your bucket in a half-hour were scant. There were lots of smaller berries, more spread out, and they were as tasty as they get. It was hot in the summer sun and we were slow, but still we managed to pick a good amount. My bucket was a little more full than my son’s, but I let that slide and got him (and me) a creemee afterwards. Vanilla creemee with fresh blueberries dotting the top?  Saying no to that would just be cruel.

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Berries in the bucket

When we got home I measured out a few cups to make jam (the rest we would polish off fresh). I washed them and gathered the rest of the ingredients to make jam. I cut up a mango and tossed that into the pot with the berries before turning on the heat.

Fruit ready to get transformed

Fruit ready to get transformed

That fruit turned a bit to mush once it got warm. With a little sugar stirred in we had us some jam. Of course, eating all that jam would take a while, so I poured it into jars and canned it. One of the jars didn’t seal, which was a first for me (lid not on properly? jam on the rim? not sure) but I still got seven jars to keep for later. I will swirl that one rogue jar into a coffee cake so it isn’t all that much of a loss. We will be tasting summer in the winter, even if it has all that extra sugar. Blueberry mango jam on some fresh bread on a snowy morning? I’ll take it.

Sweet goo

Sweet goo

Blueberry mango jam cooling on the counter

Blueberry mango jam cooling on the counter

Walking Over to Pick Up the Goods

Yesterday I picked up our farm share. We switched this year from Stony Loam Farm to our neighbors who offered shares for the first time this year. We loved Stony Loam but the Needham Family Farm is close enough that we can walk there. It was hard to give up a relationship of several years with some folks who are just plain awesome, but this made sense to at least try. Typically more than one of us walks over; often we all do as a family. But yesterday I went solo since I was the only one around. It was a fine day for a walk.

The Needhams do things a little differently. Instead of a box that we pick up on a certain day of the week, their farm stand is open every day. We go on the day that works best for us. And instead of a particular allotment of produce, we choose from what they have. We get a set number of points each week and can divide those points how we want. The have produce–this week included kale, swiss chard, lettuce, beets, zucchini, summer squash, peas and some other stuff–and they also have eggs (we get these every week), frozen chickens, maple syrup, honey, granola, quiches, pies and other prepared foods. This week I picked up a jar of honey since I was planning to put some in the beer I made today. I got beets and squash. I walked home with a bag full of good stuff.

This is working out well for us so far. We were away last week and picked up our share when we returned on Saturday; we did not worry that we would miss pick-up day. It isn’t perfect–we missed out on the early tomatoes because there just are not many and they are popular, and it is less social than meeting everyone else who has shares on pick-up day–but overall I am happy with the system. Simply being able to walk over makes working with the Needhams a good deal. It may be muddy and it may be dry. The deer flies may be out or they may not. The oaks will be there on any day, however, and the path will offer a mini adventure any day we go.

Heading Through the Woods

Transition Zone

Across the Field

Arrival at the Needham Family Farm

 

Another Christmas Tree

Weekend after Thanksgiving–time to get a Christmas tree. Maybe it seems early to some, but we figure we might as well celebrate the season as long as we can. We went to Martel’s tree farm in Williston and cut a fine fir. It is worth visiting that tree farm just to get the view. It was a beautiful day so we saw snow on Mount Mansfield and Camel’s Hump and a long stretch of the Green Mountains. Lake Iroquois rippled in the breeze down the hill. And the smell of cut fir drifted over it all. We tied it to the car and hauled it over the town line.

We had to do some trimming to get it the right size. It was just a little too tall but we managed to make it work just right. The kids took a critical hand in trimming it so the bottom third is heavier with ornaments than the top two thirds. We strung lights–pink and blue and white and decked our humble halls with other delights, some made on the spot by the children who live here. They had a fine time of it. We hauled out the box of holiday CD’s and found the holiday tracks on Pandora internet radio and we made the transition to December with only a few bumps. Here is the before and after:

 

Fresh From the Hill

Decked Out for the Holidays

 

 

Learning Personal Finance

We went to the farmer’s market in Hinesburg yesterday. I emptied my wallet. I didn’t even get all I could have gotten, but our bag was full and the kids were antsy. Next time I’ll bring two bags. And make the kids carry one.

This market was great. I arrived with my two children right when it opened, at 9:00. It was held in the Hinesburg Town Hall. There is a summer farmers market weekly but once the fall hits it whittles down to once per month. We missed the one in October so I was eager to be there for this one.

I purchased leeks, onions, potatoes, garlic, spinach and other stuff. I was happy enough. I was looking for food. My daughter, however, was looking to spend some money.

I had told her I would give her some money so she could buy some things herself. The space is small and I figured it wouldn’t be crowded first thing. So I gave her five bucks and told her she buy whatever she wanted. We did a lap to start us off, to see who was there selling what. We tasted a purple carrot and looped back around. At the first vendor she bought a delicata squash, a tiny one, but cute and just right for her. A couple of tables down she bought some popcorn. It was purple, still on the cob but dried, four ears for a dollar. She bought four. Then she bought some of those purple carrots. She considered a stone charm, but it was five dollars and she didn’t want to blow it all in one shot.

This was great for both of us. She felt a sense of responsibility and I felt safe with her learning some lessons in how to spend money. I really don’t think I could have said no to anything there she may have said she wanted to buy. It was a farmers market.  She wants to buy carrots and mini squash? I’m good with that. She wants to but some jewelry made by someone here in town?  I’m good with that.  She wants to buy honey, jam, hand spun yarn, fresh bread, eggs? How can I say no? It was ideal.

She is now the eager one, asking when the next market will be. There is one every Saturday somewhere around here. The next one is in Burlington, then Winooski, Shelburne, and back in Hinesburg again. And there are  others well into the winter. My daughter would gets the shakes if she saw all the vendors in Burlington compared to little old Hinesburg. I’m thinking we may have to take advantage of that. I can give up five bucks for this endeavor for several weekends if she is still into it. I have been wanting to go to these this fall and winter anyway. Fresh local food this late in the year? I can go out of my way for that.

The eggs we bought yesterday and way good, and I turned cauliflower, spinach, garlic and leeks into a fine dinner tonight. And the popcorn? Pops white, tastes great. And that was just one ear. That popcorn may have been the best deal of the lot.

Close to the End

 

Sauteed onions and peppers

Pizza Topping--Colorful and Tasty

Last night’s dinner was pizza. We topped one of them with peppers and onions. I used the last onion we grew in our garden. I used peppers and another onion from our farm share. We have one more pepper we grew tucked in the refrigerator, one more pepper from the farm, and a couple small onions from the farm. There was a bonus pick up yesterday but I have been sick, so I didn’t get organized enough to put in an order. That is a bummer since having more peppers, onions and some squash at least would be helpful in making this transition to winter. I really want to make sure we preserve more food next year. We have some, but cracking open something I grew over the summer, in the middle of winter, just can’t be beat.  We have a few items left, including sweet pumpkins, but we are close to out for the season. Winter’s farmers markets are near. I need to make sure we get there.

Eating Around Here

I made dinner tonight and let me tell you it was good stuff.  It was simple, really, but a simple pleasure.  I scrambled up eggs and cheese and we ate it with greens. The greens were as simple as the eggs–leeks, garlic, peppers and kale with some salt and butter.  The combination was tasty, tastier than I thought it would be.  It felt good to eat food so wholesome and healthy.  And it felt good to know that almost everything came from right around here.

The leeks and kale came from our farm share. Our last pick up was Tuesday and we got a lot. We used some of it tonight. The peppers came from our garden–the last of them to be picked. The butter was Cabot butter, so also fairly local. The cheese in the eggs was also Cabot, and the eggs came from Maple Meadow Farm in Salisbury (the eggs could be more local, I admit, but this wasn’t bad). The olive oil traveled far to get to us, as did the salt, but those are hard to get from local sources.

The one thing that was questionable was garlic. That came from a farm somewhere, but that’s all I know. Our farm share did not include garlic several times in a row–they didn’t have a great year. I missed the farmer’s market last Saturday–I couldn’t get there until too late. And our local market, which often has good local produce, didn’t have any local garlic, so I bought what was there, even though I hate not to know the source of my food. Part of the reason we had no garlic was that the garlic I bought at the farmer’s market a couple weeks ago I planted in the ground. I want to make sure I have plenty next year, so I planted all the cloves and hope for them to burst out of the ground in spring. That would make things local, eh?

So our meal had only a few food miles. It is simply crazy that our food system means we can get cheap food that is transported hundreds or thousands or miles. How is it that we can spend 87 calories to get one calorie and not pay more for that one calorie than we do? How is it that we are OK with the poor quality of those strawberries or winter tomatoes when we buy them, out of season? We ship food all over the place so we can eat whatever we want whenever we want it. So we get poor quality food and we burn up all kinds of oil to get it and we pump CO2 into the atmosphere like mad (literally) when we could could have better food at less real cost if we ate locally. So I try to do that.

Having a garden helps. Taking part in a community supported agriculture program helps. Living in Vermont helps, as local food is available much of the year because people care about it. And canning and freezing helps, too, as that means we can spread the harvest out over the cold months. I am new to canning but thanks to my parents giving me a tutorial, I have canned my second batch of jam. I have pesto and pumpkin and soup in the freezer and will freeze more. I could do better and, with some experience and over time, I will. Pulling pesto out of the freezer in January is just about the best thing ever.

Keeping my food miles down is important. I don’t want my food traveling more in a year than I do. It is one thing I, and collectively we, can do to make a difference to abate global warming. Eating locally can make a big difference in limiting carbon emissions, since we all need to eat. One day we will be forced to eat more locally, since oil will get expensive and raspberries from temperate climes won’t be cheap to ship in the winter. Plus, food usually tastes better if it hasn’t traveled half way around the world. And it has more in it, so it is healthier. Sure, if we eat locally we don’t get to have anything we want whenever we want it, but waiting for things makes them sweeter, sometimes literally. And I can wait for a little sweetness.

(This post is part of Blog Action Day).