Saturday, October 13, 2007

Hello From Middlebury, VT!

Hello from Middlebury, Vermont!

For those that haven't heard from us, we arrived here in Middlebury on September 5, and we’ve been enjoying the small town New England scene ever since.

So why Middlebury?

Our friends, Chris and Susan, moved from New Jersey to Cornwall, VT about a year ago. Cornwall is about 3 miles south of Middlebury. Chris and Susan have an empty pole barn on their property, and they very kindly offered us some storage space therein. That has been very helpful -- thanks guys!

So it made sense to find a place to set up base camp near where some of our goods would be. Middlebury is home to Middlebury College , and some short term housing is available for visiting faculty and parents. I trolled craigslist and found a furnished efficiency for short term rent right. “Furnished” in this case meant complete down to cloth napkins and broadband internet access. A furnished place made packing much easier -- we only needed clothes and essential personal effects -- everything else went into storage in Hyattsville (also big thanks to Bones & Andrea for storing some of the more delicate items -- thanks muchly guys!).

A second reason for being here in Middlebury is the land itself. Middlebury is located near the center of the Champlain Valley, which is home to 80% of the arable land in Vermont. Since we aspire to farm, quality land is, well, important.

We are well. Yvonne has found work on the prep staff of a local 4 star French restaurant, Christophes on the Green . I’ve been very fortunate to be able to continue to work part time for the same National Weather Service office (via SAIC) for which I worked for over 10 years down in DC. They have kindly given me a very interesting project to tackle.

Our apartment is right on the edge of the college campus, and we’ve been using their cross country course for our morning runs. The college students are generally quite pleasant, much more so than I remember them being when I was one. The college also offers some arts and entertainment, which we hope to take advantage of in the coming months.

The town of Middlebury is small, maybe 8,000 people, or roughly the size of town I grew up in back in Pennsylvania. Middlebury has much better restaurants though. Middlebury is a valley town, sitting astride a river named Otter Creek. Right down town Otter Creek has a beautiful 20’ water fall, which was harnessed to power industry in the 19th century. The ruins of some of that infrastructure still stand, and yes, boaters run that drop in kayaks. I saw a couple of guys in creek boats doing that yesterday, in fact. My day for that may come, but first I’ll have to figure out where my dry suit is. Probably need a creeker tool; my RPM is a bit too pointy for gnar like that.

One other claim to Middlebury fame is John Deere, the namesake of the company that still produces farm machinery today. Mr. Deere came to Middlebury as a teen to learn blacksmithing, then went to the Midwest and invented “the plow that broke the prairie”, aka the moldboard plow.

Middlebury is an agricultural hub -- the county stock yards are just 2 miles southeast of town. From our apartment we can smell the local dairy farms on every south wind, which some folks might not think much of, but to me it’s a wonderful accompaniment to a savory meal and a glass of earthy, red wine. Milk trucks the size of fuel tankers roll through town most daylight hours, and occasionally tractors haul loads of proto-silage or livestock past our apartment.

We’ve begun making contacts with people here in town. Our landlords, Bud and Deb, are wonderful folks, who take it upon themselves to help us out frequently. It’s handy that they know pretty much everybody in town. Bud also buys fair-trade, organic coffee beans (green) and roasts them in the garage out back. Most mornings the area smells of roasting coffee, which is different from brewing coffee, but it’s still very pleasant. His Indonesian brew is my favorite.

We’ve been attending the Champlain Valley Unitarian Universalist Society (CVUUS) here in Middlebury. Turns out CVUUS is the second largest UU congregation in Vermont, though Middlebury is nowhere near the 2nd largest city/town in the state. It’s been a very good experience thus far, and it often reminds me of our time at UUCSS (UU Church of Silver Spring, MD). As an aside, here in Vermont the UU congregations tend to call themselves “Societies” rather than “Churches”. In due course I hope to learn what drove that naming convention.


WV Mt. Momma said...

Hello from WVA! I know Middlebury and most of VT well, being the Yankee gal that I am (Massachusetts for my first 25 years, the last 2 years in the Berkshires). Just got back from our exploratory trip to Wisconsin, hoping to do very much of the same stuff y'all are doing. Happy to see the blog, so we can learn from your experiences. Good luck with your continuing land hunt! Best wishes and big hugs, Vicki

Anonymous said...

Awesome to hear from you guys. we look forward to reading along.

(and glad that you found a UU Society)

Lance said...

Excellent! Very cool, Ed. I too am looking forward to reading along and helping as I can. I'm happy things are rolling along.