News from Vermont #399 Always Up For A Challenge

News from Vermont #399 Always Up For A Challenge
June 4, 2018


Hello again Maple People,


Lately we’ve been getting a few of those “glad to be alive” days here at Morse Farm. Being farmers, we have a special edge on the “glad” part, especially this time of year. My father used to call it “blossom” season, y’know the time of year when everything wakes up and we say “whew”…made it through another winter! Whether a walk in the woods for a close up view or a sit-down on the porch for the panorama, the verdant splendor of our Vermont world is astounding this time of year.


Yesterday Betsy and I went over to the East Montpelier Town Office to pay our property taxes, dues for the view so to speak…not cheap but there again, quality always does have a price. When we left, we turned right for the scenic route home through East Montpelier farm country. We traveled at a very slow pace on the gravel roads still bumpy from mud season. When we finally broke from a wooded glen into rolling green farm land, a story of two farmers from that area’s past came to mind.

The very farm we were passing by was the Ella McKnight place when I was young. Her place was largely worked by her hired man John Farmer. Just up the hill from that farm stands the Lyle Young place. Lyle Young’s panoramic view of mountains to the east opened with a “spotlight” view of the McKnight farm in the valley below. Back in the day, Lyle Young and John Farmer had a competition goin’ on livelier’n a bull in a heifer field. It seems neither one could stand getting up in the morning and seeing the other one’s barn lit up. The one who lost the “earliest in the barn” contest would simply rise earlier the following morning…and so on. As they approached the ends of their lives, according to Lyle Young’s nephew Austin Cleaves, it got rather interesting…both farmers walked around red-eyed from a serious lack of sleep!


Austin also said the competition went beyond morning chore time to other things; numbers of loads of hay coming in…numbers of loads of manure going out…whose barn had the freshest coat of paint! Mrs. McKnight even got into the act with her clothesline: nobody was to have a fresher, crisper, better smelling clothesline full o’ cloths than Ella McKnight!


Both farms, by the way, are still being actively farmed which, in these hard times for dairy farmers is a refreshing anomaly. In order to survive, they have had to change and adapt: the Lyle Young Farm, now Fairmont Farm, has become one of the largest dairies in Vermont with huge equipment to work huge acreage. Seth Gardiner who now owns the McKnight place, has survived by becoming organic and diversified. And, I might add, both farms are a boon to us all by the service and beauty they provide.


Yup, I wouldn’t trade living on a Vermont farm for any other place in the world especially this time of year, blossom season. Our world is waking up with a crispness all its own and green rules the day. Although dairy farmers are having particularly “hard sleddin'” right now, they’re a hardy bunch; they’ll sort it out and compete again. I just went out on that same porch with a panoramic view to sniff the crisp air, enjoy our vista, and best of all, feel glad to be alive.


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