I wish I had posted during my week in Vermont last week, so that I could have a real-time record of how happy I was there. Whatever I write now is bound to be tinged with sadness. I don’t know what it says about my home life, but I am the only one in this little family who is not that happy to be home. I guess it’s just the same old thing — it was vacation, we did fun stuff, we did a lot of nothing. But it was also the cool weather, the clean air, the gorgeous views everywhere you looked, the quiet that was so quiet it was loud, the lack of people, the lack of TV.
We left on Friday the 1st of August, drove four hours, stayed overnight in Albany, and continued on to Greensboro, VT the next day. The house we stayed in was an old farmhouse with an attached barn set on a road that circles Caspian Lake. The first floor was basically one big room, divided only by the stairwell in the center. A hallway took you off to a bedroom and bath and the laundry room and barn. I felt right at home as soon as I walked in, among the old wooden furniture, comfy burgundy armchairs, clawfoot tubs, and new-but-looks-antique stove. Not to mention the several cabinets filled with books, the piano, the fireplace, and the wood-burning stove. Upstairs there were several bedrooms tucked away under sloping ceilings, with all-white walls and wide-plank yellow pine floors.
Over the course of the week we would discover mold, mice, a leaking dishwasher, etc. It was definitely a quirky little house, not a luxurious one. But it was heaven to me. Here was my view when washing dishes:
Here’s the fire I curled up in front of at night:
Every night I fell asleep listening to what I think were two owls calling to each other. In the morning I woke up after nine hours of sleep to perfect quiet (ok, one morning there was a chainsaw roaring off in the woods somewhere). In between we swam in the lake, tried to catch fish, went on hikes, explored the nearby “big” town of Hardwick, visited a working farm, napped in the hammocks, played board games…
It was (to me) the quintessential lake house vacation. And oddly enough, it turned out that we were staying at the same lake featured in the quintessential lake house vacations described in one of my favorite books, Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner. When I rented the house online, I realized by looking at other nearby listings that Caspian Lake was the Battell Pond of the book. But not til I got there did I realize how proud Greensboro is of Stegner and the book. Here is an interview that explains the relationship between the two better, and I highly recommend the book if you haven’t read it.
There is a plot of land on the lake for sale for $99,000. Anybody want to go in on a little family/friends camp with me? We can just go camp up there for the next couple years and eventually build a little farmhouse. 🙂
In the meantime I’m dreaming of next summer’s vacation (Maine or Prince Edward Island), and of going back to Greensboro for Christmas, so I can see what it looks like in the snow, or, more likely, installing a fireplace in my house somewhere and just pretending.
The kids, I must say, did very well on the long car ride, better than I expected. Now every time we get in the car they ask if we are going to “Buh-mont.” They also entertained themselves well at the house, mostly thanks to a well-stocked toy and game closet. And I felt so much more relaxed about their whereabouts than I do here. We were all entranced by the local flora and fauna, and spent a lot of time catching moths and frogs and looking up things we didn’t recognize online. (Yes, there was Wi-Fi. I have my limits.)
A couple of thoughts on the environment and frugality:
There was no trash pick-up at the house. We were supposed to take all our trash and recyclables to a drop-off spot behind the town hall on Saturday morning before we left. (We didn’t, but that is a whole other story.) That got me thinking about how waste-aware you must become when it’s on you to fill your trunk with smelly trash bags and tote it away. It’s a much different story than just rolling it out to the curb. Unfortunately, Greensboro doesn’t recycle plastic, and we were a little skeeved by the cloudy well water coming out of the tap, even though the owner said it was fine, so we drank a lot of bottled water and threw the bottles away. I thought about bringing them home to recycle, but the car was full.
The woman who owns the house appears to be rather environmentally conscious. She has a composter out in the woods past the back yard, and the kitchen was light on Tupperware and plastic in general. There was also stuff like this:
“If You Don’t, You’re an A–hole.”
In general Vermont seemed pretty well divided between the crunchy types driving their Subaru Outbacks to the co-op to buy organic stuff and gun-toting pickup truck drivers and bikers, but they seemed to co-exist peacefully. (I wanted to play a drinking game where you sit on the front porch and drink every time an Outback drove by; you’d be wasted in an hour.)
Food waste was an issue, both in terms of actual food and money. It’s tough when you’re only going to be somewhere for a week. We bought a lot of groceries at the general store, Willey’s, but then ended up eating out three nights, due to a severe case of lazy-itis. (At the same restaurant every night, because… that’s all there was.) We left a lot of butter and milk behind. At least here, unlike on our Shore vacation, it seemed OK to leave food for the next tenant, so I tried to do that where possible rather than throw it away. (And at least we could compost.)
During our drives, we ate a lot of fast food and convenience store crap, which generated a lot of trash. On our next big drive, I’ll be sure to pack a picnic hamper of healthy sandwiches and fruit and whatnot, but that didn’t happen this time.
On the plus side, I had a lot of reusable grocery bags with me (I used them for packing), so I used them at the general store. (And I really need to start using them all the time here at home because the number of ShopRite, CVS and Wawa plastic bags in my bag drawer is out of control.)
One thing that I do like about being home is the walkability. I’m not crazy about living somewhere where you have to jump in the car every time you need something, though I suppose you learn to make your trips count more. And while I was away I got news that the long-awaited sale of a vacant grocery store on our main street to a local chain of small groceries went through. So I am very much looking forward to that store opening; plus, another similar type of market is opening on the same street, so it could be that in the future I’ll be able to do all the grocery shopping in town.
This is becoming a super-long post so I’ll cut it off here, and if I forgot anything I’ll post again later. Here are a few more pictures.