Every few weeks, I write and record a commentary for Vermont Public Radio about life in Vermont, with topics ranging from over-productive vegetable gardens to Hurricane Sandy as an environmental warning sign.
To read or hear my musings on life in Vermont, go to http://www.vpr.net/bio/288/
Across Vermont’s wide valleys we can sometimes see two or even three mountain ranges at once: the Greens, the Taconics and the Adirondacks. Learn more about these peaks by listening to my VPR commentary.
The breadth of Vermonter’s creative activity is astounding. Get inspired by listening to my VPR commentary on some of Vermonter’s lesser-known creative pursuits.
Why do we strive to name the world, to classify and organize its leafy inhabitant? Listen to my VPR commentary about my struggles with and love of plant taxonomy.
A recent VPR commentary. You can listen to it here. *** At a recent Select Board meeting in my town of Castleton, instead of cooperation, divisiveness and vindictiveness ruled. Instead of allowing individual talents to benefit all of us, partisanship … Continue reading
Shopping for food used to be simple. But since moving to Vermont in 2008, this ordinary task has become highly complex. Hear my VPR commentary about the ethical vagaries of eating.
Here are two recent commentaries:
There are many interpretations of the Thanksgiving story. But all agree that none of the Pilgrims would have survived without the help of the Native Americans who shared their food and knowledge.
A number of Vermont’s small farmers, many of whom are struggling especially hard this year given the ravages of Irene, didn’t wait for Thanksgiving to share their food. Since early October, they have been filling a truck with donated vegetables and fruits and driving it to New York City and Boston to feed the Occupy Wall Street protesters.
“They’re donating despite earning peanuts for hard work, despite having already dedicated their efforts to social and economic change,” said one of the organizers. Regardless of how one feels about the Occupy movement, I am grateful to live in a state where I can know people whose idealism is translated into selfless, effective action. And where we have other, less dramatic ways to be considerate.
I refer to such unremarkable phenomena as dinner guests arriving with slippers. They stop just inside the door, slip off their snowy or muddy shoes and slip on their own slippers.
Then, there’s fleece, the fabric of choice for three-season Vermont fashions, worn in various weights, with or without sleeves, zippered, buttoned, knotted, banded, fitted to torso, head and hands.
Now you might think all this fleece would get boring. And it does. But I prefer it to the designer handbags that measured fashion sense in New York. And I am grateful that I can take in a local play or concert simply by slipping out of fleece sweatpants and into jeans, leaving on the fleece vest and the old handbag at home.
And especially around this time of year, when the sun takes an extended vacation, I’m grateful for used bookstores. And for their owners, each a fountain of fascinating information – if you can get them to talk. One has his desk facing away from customers, eliminating the need for even a greeting. But if you happen to pique his interest with your inquiry, he turns around, and almost smiling, offers a short and brilliant lecture on the subject that usually starts with an intriguing “did you know?”
The proliferation of bookstores might have something to do with the proliferation of writers, artists and other creative types. At last count there were more than 5,000 of these folk, making Vermont the fourth highest in the number of artists relative to population, bringing richness and breadth to everyday life.
Then, there’s the Drying Report from the Eye in the Sky guys, aimed, I thought, at the large numbers of Vermonters whose yards showcase cheerfully blowing laundry. I learned only recently that the Drying Report is actually aimed at farmers drying their hay.
Was I disappointed?
Not at all.
I’m grateful to be living in a state that has enough cultivated fields to merit a special report. Furthermore, the drying report works perfectly for my laundry!
Once I could walk into a grocery store and buy what I needed, looking for freshness and trying to save where I could. It was in and out, fast and efficient.
Then we moved to Vermont , and shopping for food became a mission complicated by ethical, health, environmental and economic considerations. Now it’s neither fast nor efficient.
The transformation evolved as we became caught up in the localvore movement. Local food, which was a faint hum in our New York City suburb, is a thunderous drumroll in Vermont .
It started with one of my fantasies coming true. Our property has endless sunshine, encouraging serious gardening. Each year the vegetable beds expanded, and now I grow enough to feed us through fall. But when the bounty ends, it’s hard to face the sad supermarket produce.
When a yearning for meat set in, easy answers appeared. Our neighbor raises chickens and turkeys that wander around seemingly happy throughout their lives. At the Rutland Farmers Market I found beef from the cheerfully grazing cows we pass driving north. Both cost considerably more than supermarket meat, but encouraged by the culture around us, we became committed to consuming only happy animals.
Still, the grocery store remains a mainstay for things like fish, and orange juice, and in winter, fresh fruits that require fewer than thousands of miles to transport. And it’s a place fraught with complex issues.
Fish is one example. I carry a list that’s supposed to make it easy to make the environmentally correct and healthy choice. Problem is, there are three columns of bad choices, and every fish in front of me fits into one of them. It’s either filled with mercury and therefore bad for us; or it’s a species that’s being overfished, so it’s bad for the fish; or it’s farm-raised, and thus bad for the oceans. I stand in front of the fish counter paralyzed with indecision. I could try the fish store, but that means extra driving and burning more fossil fuel. Veggie burgers, I finally decide, will be delicious sautéed in garlic butter.
Even orange juice presents a quandary. It used to be sold in cardboard containers that disintegrated in the landfills. I don’t know when these containers were deemed unsuitable – nobody consulted me – but the result is that OJ now comes in plastic or glass containers, which take energy to produce and recycle – assuming our careful winnowing of the trash is not undone at some point along the long path to the factory.
Recycling presents more puzzles – like the environmental cost of the hot water used to wash a greasy mayonnaise jar. I feel compelled to wash it, since something prevents me from throwing a jar with moldy remains into the bin. And then there’s the dilemma of organic, free-range eggs that come in plastic cartons versus ordinary eggs in cardboard packaging.
All this confusion – and I haven’t even weighed in on the Green Mountain College oxen!