Thursday, October 09, 2008

Notes from the Northeast Kingdom

1) The day after I arrived, my sister helped a cow deliver a calf.  I wished I could have been there to watch.  I'm really hoping she washed her hands after! One year when I was visiting, we had to go out into the pasture to look for a calf that had been born overnight.  After we found him, my sister hefted that 100+ lb baby calf over her shoulders and we walked triumphantly back to the barn.  I stepped in a cow pat on the way back.
2) There is a meat eating dinosaur even bigger than the T Rex.  Jason can pronounce all of the dinosaur names, so when I was reading him his library book about the dinosaurs I had to turn to him for the exact pronunciation.
3) If a cow is delivered of twins - a heifer and a bull - there is an 80% chance that the heifer will be sterile.
4) Verna, my littlest niece is fully potty-trained but refuses to use the big potty.  She uses a little training potty. Her mother informed her that if she is going to use the little potty then she needs to be responsible for emptying it.  Verna doesn't always remember......
5) Oftentimes, for dessert, my sister's family has bowls of maple syrup.  Just plain maple syrup.  It was the most amazing thing.  One minute there was noise and confusion and whining and then John (her husband) brought out the jug of maple syrup and poured bowls  for the three kids and himself.  Silence reigned as they all tucked in to their bowls and started slurping away, not unlike eating soup.  John and the girls like the light syrup while Jason prefers the darker syrup.  The light syrup is the grade A stuff.  John sugars the syrup himself every spring from the sugar bush that has been supplying sap for maple syrup since his great-grandfathers time. 
6) This is where Jody and her family live.  Craftsbury, VT  is in the Northeast Kingdom and is quiet and peaceful.  The sky seems so close when you are up on the mountain.  On Friday morning it was 45° and Jody had the wood stove going.  Her father-in-law says that he can remember a year where it snowed every month. 
7) Because it is a farm, there are always cats around. Jody brought three wee kittens down from the barn to be housecats.  Verna walks around with one little kitty draped over her arm, looking not unlike my grandmother carrying her great big black purse. Jason picks up a kitty by the scruff of the neck and lets it dangle there saying "This is how Daddy picks up the kitty". It makes both me and the kitty nervous as evidenced by the plaintive "Mew, mew" coming from the kitty.  Phoebe wants to show me how the all black kitty can do back flips.  If the kittens survive the man-handling by the kids they will be well equipped for life in the house although I'm sure they would prefer  life in the barn where the only requirements are to catch mice and drink warm milk straight from the cow.
8) Jody works two days a weeks at the United Church of Craftsbury  as the church secretary.  The church is a stones throw from the Craftsbury library.  The library is beautiful. There is a roofed porch with a windowed door that leads into an anteroom, where the library patrons are encouraged to take off their shoes before entering the library proper.  I'm sure this is greatly appreciated by the library staff, especially during mud season.
9) Bella is Jody's BIL's dog.  She is an English Mastiff.  She is large and kind and truthfully a little silly for such a big dog.  She sounds ferocious as she lets out a deep-throated "WOOF" when someone comes to the door.  For a big dog she is very light on her feet and does not jump up on visitors, which is good for me since I'm a little unsteady on my feet.  A week before I arrived, Bella was in heat and was unable to get any satisfaction from Jody's little Corgi dog named Morgan.  Morgan and Bella are chums and engage in regular evening wrestling matches.  When Morgan becomes overwrought with excitement, Bella calmly and gently engulfs his head with her mouth and Morgan becomes deathly still. He must feel as though the all lights have gone out!  Jody said that when Bella was in heat and not really interested in wrestling, Morgan was bewildered by the change in his playmate.  Bella has since come around and although she doesn't know it yet, is scheduled for a trip to the vet later this month to get spayed.
10) Jody allows her kids to have gum, even though Verna can't keep the gum in her mouth.  She is always playing with it and stretching it out.  When Mama, Phoebe and Verna were walking back from the barn, Verna's gum fell out of her mouth onto the dirt road.  She wept some bitter tears and told Mama that she couldn't chew it anymore because "there is road on my gum."  When she told me her sad story I was all set to give her another piece of gum but Mama said "No, it is time for bed".  Aunt Jen promised Verna and Phoebe that she would give them gum before she left for NJ the next morning.  Jason protested, "But I won't get any, I'll be in school".  I promised to put a piece in an envelope for him so he would have something to look forward to when he came home from school.
The next morning, when I came into the house, the very first thing Phoebe and Verna said to me was "Aunt Jen, can we have our gum now!?!"
11) As do so many Vermonters, Jody heats her house with a woodstove. John told me that he cuts wood for their house, his sister's house, his parents house and the sugar house.  It averages out to about 5 cords of wood per house.  He cuts and splits and stacks this wood all by himself.  Jody says he would almost rather work in the woods than do the dairy farming.   Either way, it all boils down to a lot of hard work!!
Thus concludes the notes from my visit north.


Anonymous said...

Beautiful place to live. Sounds a bit cold though, at least to me. 45º in September??? Eeek.


Melody said...

It is a regular Little House on the Prairie up there yonder. Do you feel like you have entered a different country?

Jess said...

Awesome descriptions!

When maggie was younger nana wouldn't give her gum because she swallowed it. One time she asked for gum and Nana tole her no for this reason and Maggie informed her that that was before, when she was little and now she was old enough for gum. Nana gave her a piece. A few minutes later Nana noticed she was not chewing and asked, "Maggie, where is your gum?"... with a very grave face Maggie said "Yeah, Nana... i'm too little for gum..."

Sanna said...

how delicious and delightful!!! I'm so glad you had the visit - the kids sound marvelous. Do you have any pictures of the farm? And how are the chickens? Is jason driving the tractor around yet? I imagine he is John's little helper around the farm. I'd love to hear Jody's reports from the field through the Vermont winter - maybe she could be a contributing feature writer from time to time?

34 Years said...

I can't get past the bowls of toothes hurt!

Sounds like a fantastic weekend though, they could totally charge people to go up and live with them for weekends :) I'm picturing hoop skirts and corn cob dolls! I've always thought it would be cool to grow up on a farm -

Anonymous said...

VT. sure is beautiful esp. this time of the year, i sure do miss Jody, i wish she would live on a farm in good old PA