Sunday, December 6, 2009

a snowy potluck

I got to the potluck sometime around 4:45. The line of trucks and Subarus outside let me know I wasn't alone. It had been snowing for a few hours and Town Hall was covered in proof. I parked, grabbed my pie, and walked inside. Any tension I may have been carrying from earlier in the day came off with my insulated vest. I hung it on the coat rack and took a long look at the scene. Inside the place was full of children running around, a decorated tree, and adults setting up the covered dishes. There was hot coffee (which I gravitated to like a moth to the flame) and familiar faces everywhere. Alan, my neighbor (and fellow musher) was there in a santa hat. He called me yesterday to remind me about the potluck and I was glad he did. How could I have missed this? I walked over with my pie and told him about my day and all the news I had about my place. He told me about their new sled dog, Tarot.

When I moved to Vermont the Tschorns' had one dog, a little coyote look-alike named Nina. Three winters later and now they have six. Six dogs and a dog box built on the back of their truck, a dogsled, and a Siberian Husky now graces the sign of the family business in Arlington. He showed me video of running a cart on the train tracks earlier in the week with a giant team. He showed this to me like grandparents show baby pictures. Allan's love of his dogs, and his new sport, makes him and his wife Suzanne glow.

As I mingled and shook hands with neighbors. When I wasn't talking I'd stop to and look around the walls of our small meeting place. Photos of men working with horses in the field, maps of the town lines, photographs of the old matriarchs and patriarchs of our village, lined the wood paneling. And here I was in a snow fall, after a long day with friends, and ending it with a hot meal in community celebration. There's feeling lucky, there's feeling blessed, and then there's being a resident of Sandgate Vermont. Why would ever I want to live anywhere else?

Then a knock on the door and a ringing of sleigh bells! Santa came inside in full regalia and walked around the entire room shaking hands and ho ho hoing. The little kids looked up in awe. The older kids smiled, probably remembering what the whole thing was like when they were four. Santa took a seat under the tree and parents lined up with their kids for wishlists and goodie bags. I sat in a folding chair in the back, spectating.

Those of us without children made the night social. I talked with my friends Phil and Marybeth. Phil plays guitar in my open mic night band along with Steve (who you remember from the death of Chuck Klosterman). I also got to meet some neighbors I didn't really know all that well before, like Joan and Valerie. Valerie, a local farmer a few decades older than me, talked sheep and animals with me and when I mentioned I was looking for my own farm in town her ears perked up. I told her I wanted to become a permanent resident she replied in a stoic, Vermonter kinda of way. "Good. We want people like you around here." and then returned to the business of pork roast and sautéed potatoes. I tried not to bust into a grin. It was like being stamped and approved at Ellis Island.

We all sang Christmas Carols with Santa and waved him goodbye and he walked out into the snow. Kids ran around inside and out. A local farmer handed everyone a gift of a dozen brown eggs and I gave my goodbye hugs and headed home. I had nothing planned for the evening but Ken Burn's National Parks Disc One, but damn, I was excited to get back to the cabin. Events like this make me feel lucky to have landed here...I know my future's a little shaky right now—but god willing I'll be able to buy some of this place in the spring, even if it's two acres for my three sheep and a garden. I want to show up to Town Meeting next year voting on the road crew and budget as a tax-paying, home-owning, resident.

And if I'm at that town meeting, you can rest assured I'll motion it's followed by a potluck. There just aren't enough of them.


Blogger Maggie in Tally said...

I believe you WILL be a homeowner by next fall. And I know it's a topic or 3 back, but I think y'oughta submit the "We're not from around here" column to Mother Earth News. I bet they'd love all of us'uns did.

December 6, 2009 at 5:24 PM  
Blogger Jeff_in_Pawlet said...

Um, you were stamped and approved. Better than Ellis Island, it was the Republic of Vermont!

Too bad you missed Ken Burns in Manchester due to "meeting" your landlord.

See you at Northshire sunday, if it happens!

December 6, 2009 at 5:58 PM  
Blogger Stacy said...

I can't wait to see a picture of the sign "Cold Antler Farm" hanging in front of your own property

December 6, 2009 at 6:07 PM  
Blogger Jeff_in_Pawlet said...

I was mistaken. Stephen King was in Manchester on the 2nd. Ken Burns is there next week, the 15th. Sorry.

December 6, 2009 at 6:23 PM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

I'm over it, Jeff. I would like to see him talk though, I'm a huge fan of his Civil War doc. HUGE

December 6, 2009 at 7:40 PM  
Blogger Rene said...

Sounds like a good time! Since I'm sort of stuck here until I finish college I get to spend a lot of time thinking (dreaming) about my future farm. Sometimes my ideas get huge (100 acres? no problem!) but after reading Gene Logsdon's Two Acre Eden, I know I could do just as well with a couple of acres and probably not kill myself taking care of it all.

I can't remember if you've said you read it before, but the Encyclopedia of Country Living has an excellent section on buying rural property for use as a homestead. There are things of which your realtor and home inspector may not be aware that go in to it beyond normal home buying like soil testing, water and mineral rights, and things like whether your neighbor owns the rights to the only access route to the property. If you need more specific advice I can recommend you to someone who spent many years as a realtor for rural properties.

December 6, 2009 at 8:04 PM  
Blogger Reason's Whore said...

Yes, the one thing I have learned from buying and owning in the country is that water rights are HUGE. Here in CA at least we are having an ongoing drought, and with population pressures this issue is going to get worse rather than better. If you can find a place with its own water or at least riparian rights you are in very good shape indeed.

December 6, 2009 at 10:16 PM  
Blogger Reason's Whore said...

Something to think about

December 6, 2009 at 10:20 PM  
Blogger Mimi said...

Jenna--If I had known the Animal Control Officer would have visited you, I would have told you that I was sure you'd pass inspection just fine. I have read your book and your blog for a long time and you always start and end your day with caring for the animals (and lots of time in between, like bottle-feeding Finn at the office). I'm glad he was a sensible person--they usually are. It sounds like things are taking a good turn and I'm so happy for you. There's always someone who has to find fault--I've never seen you ask for donations and I know you're on the right road. Just keep on doing what you do and things will work out to the best for you, I know it. Mimi

December 7, 2009 at 12:28 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

This great "high road" you're taking will definitely lead you to your own farm. You're an inspiration.

December 8, 2009 at 10:56 AM  
Blogger Debbie said...

You inspire me to be patient.
I did a quick search for Sandgate area. Your patience will pay off. Several nice looking places there. Way less expensive than here for sure, and that surprised me. I always assumed New England realestate would cost more than Ohio.

December 8, 2009 at 12:05 PM  
Blogger Peacemom said...

Better be careful, or everyone's gonna wanna live in Sandgate! Sounds like a great time.

December 8, 2009 at 4:07 PM  
Blogger KimT said...

sounds perfect!

December 8, 2009 at 5:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Winter and potlucks, a very happy marriage.

December 8, 2009 at 5:32 PM  

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