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Making Friends in Vermont

by Tara

With light hearts, we're heading north towards the Middlebury area to meet our kayaking friend, Sue. The drive is a pleasure; the sun is out, the landscape is verdant and hilly pastureland, and the views are unmarred by billboards and advertisements. Between great swaths of countryside, we wind through quaint villages talking about our land, hoping we'll hear from the sellers soon.

Two hours later, we've arrived in Shoreham, but we're more than an hour early for our dinner date. So, we decide to while away some time at the nearby Champlain Orchards, where I'm hoping we'll be able to find a suitable gift for Sue. As we pull into the parking lot, I spot a sign for "U-Pick Flowers" and decide to assemble a small autumnal bouquet for our hostess.

Cortland Apple Tree at Champlain Orchards

With scissors in hand, I trod gingerly between rows, listening to the pleasant hum of chubby bumble bees, dusted with pollen, floating like tiny balloons from blossom to blossom. Here among vibrantly-hued flowers of red, pink, and gold, I'm in my own personal heaven. I love flowers! Silky, heavily-perfumed peonies have always been my favorites in early summer, and I'm now certain that zinnias take the crown on the crisp, shortening days of fall.

Tara Cutting Zinnias Tara & Zinnias Zinnias

When an hour has passed at the orchard, we drive back to Shoreham, arriving at Sue's house precisely on time. She welcomes Tyler and I with our choice of chilled beer and wine, then introduces us to her husband Mark, who is out back, tending to the grill. Drinks in hand, we all take a seat outside, chatting as a shadowy dusk falls.

During our conversation, we learn about how the couple moved here from New Jersey nearly twenty years ago, bought a crumbling old house, and fixed it up (their septic system was nothing more than a pipe leading to the ditch!). Later, while chatting about what it means to be a Vermonter, Sue shares the story of how she opened a bakery in town, only to realize it had no need of fancy patries—an large proportion of citizens in this homesteaders' state already know how to bake!

Our conversation stops to observe a pair of cranes, flying silhouetted across the twilight sky, and then, heading indoors, we take our seats around their dining room table for a feast of turkey, roasted turnips, and flatbread slathered with garlic, roasted peppers, and eggplant.

In the flickering candlelight, over the course of the evening, we are deeply thankful for being accepted into the fold of Sue and Mark's community. We've barely met this couple, and already they're eager to put us in touch with people who they think would be good assets for our homesteading project. We haven't even left, and already we're being invited to future parties!

After dessert (lemon olive oil cake and Ben and Jerry's sorbet) we leave the table, full and satisfied by their good food and company. Soon, it's time to say our goodbyes and head westwards, driving through the night back to Illinois. Before we go, Sue insists on packing us massive quantities of snacks and sandwiches for the road, which we accept, grateful for her motherly care.

Bundles of food in hand, Tyler takes the driver's seat, while I hop in the passenger's. Then, pulling out of the driveway, we wave goodbye to Sue and Mark, shouting thank yous out the open window. As my partner pilots us out of Vermont, the land we'll hopefully soon call home, I fall into a restless sleep.