Volume Three is now available
Vermont Almanac: Stories from and for the Land, Volume Three, includes stories, essays, poetry and information by and about Vermont and Vermonters, both past and present. With more than 72 contributing artists and writers, Vermont Almanac III provides an eclectic, lyrical, and visually appealing summary of the year from October 2021 through September 2022.
As in the first and second editions of Vermont Almanac, this third volume is divided into twelve chapters, one for each month. Each chapter begins with a reflective essay followed by a recap of the weather, reported and put into historical context by Gary Sadowsky, the meteorologist for Channel 3 News (WCAX) in Burlington. Weather, of course, has always played a significant role in the lives of those who’ve inhabited this place, from indigenous peoples, to European migrants, to Covid refugees.
Weather is the product of geography and climate. It affects commuters as well as farmers, foresters, hikers, and home gardeners, to name just a few. This volume chronicles a wide variety of ways in which Vermonters worried about and coped with the challenges of last year’s hot, dry and out-of-order weather. Weather here has been, is, and probably always will be a reliable topic of conversation.
But this collection is not one of doom and gloom. It contains inspirational stories about innovation and history. While the number of iconic Vermont dairy farms continues to decline, Vermont agriculture is thriving, particularly among the sector of value-added products. In this volume of Vermont Almanac, you can read about Angela Miller, the woman behind the goat cheese at Consider Bardwell Farm, named for the man who helped create Vermont’s first dairy cooperative in 1864, and about Andy and Mateo Kehler, the innovators behind the Caves at Jasper Hill, where Vermont cheeses are aged and rival Old World varieties.
There are also stories about Vermont Industry, which turn Vermont raw materials into items of increased value, whether it be in form, function or both. These include a story of Goodrich’s Maple Farm in Eden, a large-scale maple sugar operation that uses reverse osmosis technology, and another about luthier Andy Mueller, who transforms Vermont lumber (one of the state’s premier agricultural products) into fine stringed instruments. But the most surprising story was about the U.S. Clothespin Company and the National Clothespin Company, two Montpelier manufacturers for parts of three centuries that competed with one another to dominate the world manufacture of this humble but essential household item.
The book also showcases Vermont’s natural phenomena, with close up photos, drawings and narratives about what’s going on in the natural world each month, from birding highlights, defoliation caused by the Spongy moth, to this fun fact: gray squirrels lick maple twigs for the sugar. Don’t believe me? See the photo on page 141 for proof. (It’s so adorable might soften my opinion of this rodent that feasts on the seed I put out for the birds.)
But there’s so much more, including my favorites: a variety of recipes, three of which have piqued my culinary curiosity: the Vermont Maple Cheddar Dog, Blueberry-Ginger Granita, and a Maple Cream Pie with a surprising secret ingredient. For pure entertainment, there’s my friend Castle Freeman, Jr.’s short story, Spring Burning. And for heartbreak and inspiration, there are personal stories, like Since When Have You Been White, by Kate Whelley McCabe, a Vermonter who gave up practicing law for motherhood and maple sugaring, which connected her to her Abenaki ancestry through her mother’s maternal grandmother. This is both a heartbreaking and heartrending story about racial identity erased and rediscovered. I also loved E.E. Lyon’s narrative, “Stick Season,” about the custom bamboo fly fishing rod that master craftsman Barry Mayer made for her.
This is just a sampling of the stories and information on these 288 paper-bound pages, every one of which I read with interest and from which I gleaned enlightenment. I highly recommend Vermont Almanac: Stories from and for the Land to those who’ve lived in Vermont for years, for the newly-arrived, and for those who dream of a living a Vermont life. Vermont Almanac is available in bookstores as well as online.