News from Vermont # 295--Workin' the Home Place

September 5th, 2013



Hello again Maple People,

Here it is, the last gasp of summer and I'm feeling the stress of our approaching foliage season, the busiest time of the year here at Morse Farm. Yesterday, my brother Tick and friend Paul Cate invited me to a presentation on antique Vermont farm tools and equipment up at Brownington's Old Stone House in the Northeast Kingdom. I had more excuses than you could shake an old wagon wheel at but when they said Cousin Stanley would be going too, that brought me over. Stanley has farmed the Morse ancestral place up in Calais his whole life and knows antique farm tools like the back of his Calais-callused hands. Best of all, since I was already heading on to Sheldon in Northwestern Vermont to play music that night, I had to take my own car and it was arranged that Stanley would ride with me to Brownington.

I headed north up County Road toward Stanley's place. As I approached the farm, the sweetness of new mown hay filled the air. "Just knocked that hay down yesterday", Stanley said as he joined me in my old Honda, "but Kent said he'd ted it while I'm gone.". Kent, Stanley's younger brother lives "a stone's throw" from the brick house where five generations of Morses have lived so far. Stanley's mention of "tedding" hay kicked off 60 miles of non-stop conversation.

Our dads came to us both when we were young men with the message, "I need your help on the farm.". What was most surprising to me, however, was that Stanley was as much "agin" it as I was! I had an active list of things I wanted to do with my life back then and farming was not even a blip on th'old radar but when dad presented me with that special combination of sentimentality and gentle arm twisting, I said "OK, I'll do it". It sounds like Stanley got the same "proposal" with maybe a bit more emphasis on the arm twisting.

He grew up in the transition period from horse-drawn equipment to tractors and bulldozers. Stanley said he wanted to start a construction company and spend his life operating heavy equipment. "I woulda done that for sure if dad hadn't caught me right when he did but there I was all of a sudden headed for a lifetime on that farm" he said. My thoughts went back to a similar place...long distance truck driver, journalist, even an undertaker...that was my short list but none of it panned out.

Friends, Stanley and Burr.

When we got to Brownington, we gravitated to an old steam engine in a shelter. A man from Ohio came along, sized us up as the old "Vermontahs" we were, and wanted to talk. He'd just been to the Orleans County Fair and his mention of "pullin' horses" kindled a funny story from Stanley. It seems one time someone suggested to John Morse, Stanley's dad, that he should enter his team of horses in a pullin' contest. John, an expert with Jersey dairy cows and no slouch with workhorses, responded quicker'n a snapping whip "Heavens no" he said. "Pullin' contests'r askin' too much from'll ruin a good team!". Stanley said he stood in the background thinking "wish dad thought the same way about his kids!".

Although we could have spent the whole day just reminiscing and trading yarns, we found our way to the Stone House Museum's recently replicated post and beam horse barn and sat down for Mr. Paul Wood's talk on antique Vermont farm tools. The presentation, a combination of PowerPoint, real antiques and hard facts, was long but interesting. I was struck by the number of things invented right here in Vermont...butter churns, cream separators, scythe blades, and sap spouts; I was more struck by the number of those antiques that I had used and seen around our farm!

We ended our day going in different directions, Tick, Paul Cate, and Stanley heading back south to Central Vermont, and I, heading west over Hazen's Notch to play my horn in Sheldon. It was a great day, full of contrasts...laughter, wistfulness, the past, and the PowerPoint, but I know Stanley Morse and I would have agreed on one thing: that although we tabled our aspirations, we both spent our lives doing just what was right...workin' the home place.

Although the "home place" here at Morse Farm Maple Sugarworks has changed a bit over the years, we still make pure maple syrup, candy, cream, and granulated maple sugar the same old time-tested way. In fact, if my great, great grandfather John Morse was still around to taste it, he'd give it an old fashion "thumbs up" for sure! We sure would like to sell you some and, after opening our town property tax bill yesterday, would like that to happen soon! So, how about taking me up on the following offer: from now through Thursday, September 12, we're giving 15% off on all sizes of Grade B Pure Maple Syrup that is bought at (does not apply to case prices). Grade B is a favorite of many folks and can be used either on pancakes or in your favorite recipe. While you're ordering your container of Grade B, please consider one of our smaller items (maple cotton cand y, maple apple drizzle, or maple kettle corn to slip right in the same package?

Thanks so much!