Before the crush of spring planting comes, the blog needs to catch up with the events of February. The highlight was a drive west through tundra-like weather in the pick-up truck.
Unfortunately we left the camera's battery at home, so we don't have the usual parade of photos to accompany this posting. But we did have the iPhone: a traveler's dream come true. Stacy's favorite use was to find restaurants and cafes along the way, avoiding the rest-stop garbage that is par for the course to many. John's favorite was the Wikipedia app which allowed a flowing historical narative of the landscape we were passing through:
- Blood libel in the small New York village of Massena. (1928)
- Cuyahoga-- "the river that caught fire" (1969)
- Fruit Ridge Michigan, one of the most prime apple growing regions in the world.
- Beech-nut processed food company, in New York's Mohawk Valley: the innovator of the vacuum sealed rubber gasket. (1900)
John + (iphone + wikipedia) = history comes alive!
First stop: Vermont's NOFA Conference. Stacy had put together a presentation along with Casey Steinberg from Old Friend's Farm about flowers, so we were honored with the title of "presenter" on our name-tags. We were most looking forward to the keynote by Shannon Hayes (author of Radical Homemakers previously featured in this blog!). She's a dynamo, and her book should be read by all Home Economics classes. (oh, sorry-- was that class cut from the budget a few years back?)
Following up on her heels is another of our new favorite authors, also presenting at the conference. Stacy was just finishing up reading the memoir "The Dirty Life" by Kristin Kimball. Easy to read, and easy to feel a kinship with this fellow farmer who dove in headfirst and is making a go of this ... career choice. Kristin, and her very tall husband, Mark spoke about their farm, their book, and their growth as a couple and as farmers. Stacy sheepishly approached her afterwards, like a groupie, stuttering and without anything eloquent to say, and had her sign their book which, feeling too frugal to buy a copy, was borrowed from the Scarborough Public Library. (Shannon Hayes, at least, would be proud!) Afterwards, we found ourselves walking with Kristin and Mark to lunch, chatting about our businesses, our trials, and the love of farming. It was a pleasure to swap stories and share ideas about the future of our businesses.
As soon as Stacy's talk was done, the nervous nausea which had followed her for a full week leading up to it suddenly passed. Vermont is amazing; Bernie Sanders got the crowd at NOFA whooped up; Burlington was cozy despite the freezing wind; and even at McDonald's-- the maple syrup flows just like milk and honey. But the societal affluence was just a warm-up as we continued westward: Oh Canada!
Now, I know, this sounds so ignorant-American, but the difference between the two sides of the border always amazes us! Driving along the northern expanse of the New York State, it is very rural, minimally populated. Magically, you cross the border and voil`a, houses, well paved roads, amazing arrays of solar panels at almost every farm, and HEALTH CARE!
Kingston, Ontario was hip and friendly, regardless and uncaring of the fact that we had never heard of the place. Yum:
We spent the night with friends in Toronto, were fed a delicious fish stew with a side of quail eggs and a maple syrup pie. We fell asleep grateful for the hospitality and the comfort found in seeing Stacy's old high school friend and his family.
There is nothing like the Canadian border crossing into rust-belt Michigan to clearly demonstrate our national recession and its far-reaching consequences. Suddenly the road got chunky and busted up.
Flint, Michigan came up on the iPhone's wikipedia with lots of depressing naration from John in the passenger side. (photo: the former Buick City.)
Close to our furthest destination, we found some beauty in the rusted demolition. I guess industrial collapse takes a few decades before the hard edges wear away and we can see the art (divinity?) within the arc of history.
We picked up the set of basket weeders we had bought, and did a little more shopping. (You know the shopping carts at Hannaford that are little race cars that your kids can ride in-- they actually "drive" up and down the aisles? Well picture the two of us, John and Stacy, driving the truck up and down "aisles" of used farm equipment. The only difference is that one of us actually had to keep a pair of eyes on what was in front of us!)
The trip home was nice, if a bit rushed. Through Cleveland, to Buffalo, to meet up with another school friend; then up to Grindstone Farm (Pulaski, New York) to pick up a root vegetable washer; and on through Mass, and back home.
And thats as good as it gets as far as Winter Vacation 2011! Though somewhat depressing, the glimpse of American culture, does nothing but encourage us in the direction we take on the farm every season. Economics are tough, and we experience and expect difficulties just as most everyone of our customers. But it is almost spring: a time when there is little room for anything but hope for the future.
Blessings on the meal,
John and Stacy