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.

Town Meeting 2017

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Last year I missed our annual town meeting. My wife attended. She represented us while I stayed home with our offspring. This year I made the trek to the high school to sit and listen in the auditorium. As I drove over there I admit I reminisced a bit about the days when my wife and I went together, in a different town than the one in which we now live, and shared the experience. I miss that–experiencing it together and then processing it. Last night, however, I passed on what happened after I got home.

The school board meeting was first on the agenda. That used to be on a different day but moved to the same evening as town meeting recently. While the town meeting itself filled the auditorium, the school meeting offered plenty of empty seating–about 40 people were there, including the school board and the co-principals. We are shifting to a regional school system–several towns are merging to share resources and to save money. That was discussed, plus some positive school outcomes. It was helpful to be there.

The first big issue to be discussed at the general town meeting was whether the town would support a bond to fund a new town garage. That discussion got a bit sidetracked when someone asked how much debt the town has. While that answer is in the town report (at least as of the end of the last fiscal year) there was lots of discussion about how to interpret all the numbers in the report. Learning math pays off. No one really questioned the value of a new facility, just taking on more debt to do it.

We also discussed whether to help fund a project to try to eradicate Eurasian Milfoil from our local lake. This has been a problem in many places. This invasive plant will clog a lake, it is so prolific. It grows like, well, a weed. After attempts to remove it manually last year, the proposal is to use an herbicide to target the Milfoil to suppress it. Naturally, this created some interest in the topic and some folks had some things to say. Someone called for a paper ballot (rather than the usual voice vote) so this article took some time. In the end, it passed by what you might call a narrow margin.

I headed home in the rain, feeling that I was a little more a part of the town. I voted on the articles presented. I listened to what my fellow residents had to say, although I did not offer any words myself. I like that I get to see and hear from other people in town directly. This is a pretty small town, but still, there are plenty of people I just don’t encounter much, if at all. So it gives us all a chance to be part of something together, as a town, as a community, whether we all agree on things or not. I find some satisfaction in that.

This morning I made my way to the town hall to vote–for school board members, for selectboard members, for the high school budget, for new school buses, for that proposed town garage. I said hello to a few people. I thanked the town clerk for her years of service, and the volunteers for helping us all out. I grabbed a donut hole on the way out and headed back to work, civic duty done for now, feeling just a little more connected to my town. These days, I need that. I think we all do.

Mellow Town Meeting

Today is town meeting day in Vermont. There are meetings happening right now in some towns. Some towns had a daytime meeting today and some had theirs last night, including my town of HInesburg. Ours was a relatively quick and quiet meeting. We had nothing on the ballet that was particularly contentious. We had no large increase in taxes. There was not a purchase or expense requiring a bond vote. It was pretty standard stuff.

Our town moderator, who has been elected for one-year terms for as long as I have lived here, is one of the best parts of the meeting. He is clear and judicial and fair and uses humor and really makes sure everyone sticks to the rules. The rules, of course, are Robert’s Rules of Order, in use at town meetings for decades. It is comforting to have such rules, and to have them used every year at the town meeting. It lends a sense that things are orderly and will all work out. It makes me feel as though I am a part of history, following that same guidelines that generations have followed. Our moderator was running again for office, on the ballot today, unopposed. I voted for him happily.

We voted on much of the budget and a couple of other things last night. Library budget, police department budget, lake district budget–all were discussed and approved with little opposition. The budget was broken down into eight separate sections and voted on separately. In years past there has been some heated discussion. Not last night.

One of the biggest issues of the night was that the “dust control” line item had been reduced by $10,000. Someone spoke up to say that the dust was really bad last spring and summer so can’t we keep that money in the budget and do a better job controlling dust this year? The select board noted that the dust control consists of a chloride solution that needs to be applied to dirt roads right before it rains; and it can’t be too cold either. In other words, the conditions need to be just right and if they are not, no dust control. It isn’t that anyone ignored the problem last year, but that the conditions were not right most of the time to make it work. Someone proposed an amendment to the article, adding back the $10,000, but after some discussion that got voted down.

The meeting only lasted a couple of hours so I was out of there around 9:00. Not too bad, considering I left one previous meeting at 11:00, an hour before it ended. Outside the door there were a couple of paper surveys to fill out for those who wanted. One was concerning our union high school, seeking feedback about the community’s perceptions. The other was the usual Doyle survey. This survey, unscientific to be sure, created by a state senator, has been a staple at town meeting and town voting for many years. It asks questions about current hot topics.  Two questions this year were “Should Vermont legalize marijuana?” and “Should drivers be prohibited from using cell phones while driving?” I am curious to see the results.

Voting on some articles happened today. We voted to elect town officers, whether or not to pass the school budget for the town (the first year this was voted by Australian ballot rather than a voice vote at the school budget meeting) and on the union high school budget. We also voted separately on whether to fund a couple of new school buses which, based on the state of the bus my kids ride to school, seems like a good idea.

We will all find out tomorrow what towns passed their school budget and what issues were debated across the state. I like to be part of the process. It is good to know that if I or anyone else stands up to ask a question or to support something or to oppose something in town, we will be heard. Sometimes it is the person who stands up who sways the rest of the voters. That is a power to be respected.

Giant Independence Day Cakes

Hinesburg celebrates 250 years as a town this year, so our July 4th parade theme was Hinesburg’s birthday. Several people who made floats for the parade had the same idea–to create a giant cake. Here they are, with some bonus pics.

Getting Things Started, 1762 Style

The Most Genuine Float–No Vehicle Visible

Lorax Motif

Cake and Cupcakes

This One Won Best Float

Plus Firetrucks. What’s a Parade Without Firetrucks?

Parade Day

The smoke drifting down from Canada had not cleared by the time we headed to Vergennes, but we managed to breathe fine anyway. Vergennes has the don’t-miss Memorial Day parade. The governor was there, and Senator Bernie Sanders, and a slew of governor-hopefuls. It may not be the best use of time for someone running for office, but it makes sense to be there–one would not want to be the one who did not show up.

There were lots of other highlights as well, including firetrucks from a dozen different towns and a “bomb diffusion” float that was a little disturbing with its rifles and blindfolds. I thought Memorial Day was supposed to commemorate those who died in war, not war itself.  Maybe I just missed the point.

Some pics from the event:

Veterans Were There

Summer Santa Was There

There Were Floats

And of Course Lots of Fire Trucks

Veterans for Peace

Bernie

How Long IS This Thing?

This Guy--from Middlebury Union High School Band--Was Into It

Shriners Zooming About

The Drumming Clowns Were a Hit

The Civil War Reenactors Scared the Pants off Small Children

And by Afternoon, the Smoke Had Mostly Cleared

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.

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).