• Publishers' Note Fall 2008

    Publishers' Note Fall 2008

    It’s hard not to notice the growth of Vermont farmers’ markets. Seems you turn around and there’s another one starting up. Or how about winter farmers’ markets? They number 14 to date, up from just a handful a year ago. And then there are CSAs of every sort, in which people pay in advance for shares of vegetables, fruit, and meat. Some shares even include canned and baked goods.

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  • Sylvia’s Special Seeds

    Sylvia’s Special Seeds

    I’d heard rumors of what might be growing in Sylvia Davatz’s greenhouse. Wheat from an alpine village. Greens throughout the winter. A tomato that lasts until December. Even peanuts! I wondered: What might be going on at Sylvia’s? Plants like these aren’t normally grown in Vermont.

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  • A Gathering Storm

    A Gathering Storm

    In 1716, while serving as a French missionary near Montreal, Father Joseph Francis Lafitau made a discovery in the journal of a fellow priest serving in China. He read about a plant, Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng), that the Chinese cherished for its medicinal value, and he believed he could find this plant or a similar one in the temperate woodlands of southern Canada. He eventually did, and in doing so added a new chapter to the annals of natural resource exploitation that accompanied white settlement in North America.

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  • Growing Up in 4-H

    Growing Up in 4-H

    4-H is a national enrichment program for young people ages 8 to 18. Around the country, local clubs teach specific skills intended to give young people four types of experiences that, organizers believe, contribute to positive youth development: mastery, belonging, independence, and generosity. Developing these skills is what it means to grow up in 4-H.

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  • Set the Table with Celeriac

    Set the Table with Celeriac

    I’m in the second year of my love affair with celeriac and the romance is still aflame. My initial reaction upon “discovering” this vegetable was to think, “Where have you been all my life?” Since then I have introduced my new love to many gardening friends, insisting they take home a couple of six-packs of seedlings in the spring and just have a fling. This year I also donated quite a few plants to the Westminster West School Children’s Garden, which I coordinate, to see if the kids would take to celeriac the way they now respond to kohlrabi—another somewhat “odd” vegetable that we planted together, and that has become one of their favorite raw snacks.

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  • Diary of a Farm Apprentice—Part 2: Summer

    Diary of a Farm Apprentice—Part 2: Summer

    The season started out dry at High Ledge. In early June, we watered the upper field by dragging a hose down each row of lettuce and beans, delivering water from a tank filled from the pond. We were making rain, you could say, playing God. Then the real rain came. Then the rain kept coming. And after two weeks, we were feeling very mortal. We lost a whole bed of lettuce to rot, and then another. Everything in the greenhouse stalled and some plants started to mold.

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  • Rutland's Spud Man

    Rutland's Spud Man

    His story is an exception—not the story we usually associate with Vermont farmers around his age, farmers in their 60s and 70s. These farmers grew up during the Depression and World War II, often on their parents’ land, then farmed themselves—dairying, mostly—for 40 or 50 years. And their stories, as everyone in Vermont knows, have often ended at the auction block or in a real estate agent’s office—places where fields and cows must be sold because of brutal economic forces. Or their stories have ended when the farmers have become too tired, or too injured, to keep working.

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  • Three Square—Fall 2008

    Three Square—Fall 2008

    Growing up in Vermont I ate chokecherries, dandelions, venison, and tempura daylilies. I recently returned to live here full time. Since then, I’ve noticed that conversation often turns to food. What’s for dinner? This is the fourth and last installment of a series in which I’ve visited a variety of Vermonters in their homes, peered into their iceboxes, and shared their thoughts about what they eat. Because of the often personal nature of their stories, I’ve chosen to omit their last names.

    “I don’t care much about cooking,” Edith tells me. “I don’t put much stock in it."

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  • Safe Ground

    Safe Ground

    Smokey House Center is not your run-of-the-mill farm by any means. And Natasha was the first to teach me this in no uncertain terms. A fight makes it sound too violent. A confrontation sounds too technical. I’d call it a challenge. My run-in with Natasha was definitely the first big challenge I faced as a crew leader at Smokey House. She was the first kid to test me, the first to stand her ground. I’m pretty sure she didn’t like me at first, and when Natasha doesn’t like you, you better watch out.

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  • Springing Ahead

    Springing Ahead

    Spring Lake Ranch is a farm-based therapeutic community in Cuttingsville, 10 miles from Rutland. Its mission is to help people with mental health and substance abuse issues find value and focus in their lives, primarily through community living and working the land. The work program makes up the core of our daily activities, and is divided into Farm, Gardens, Woods, and Shop. Residents come to the ranch for an average stay of six months, although there are no prescribed limits.

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  • Farmers' Kitchen—Sweet Treasures

    Farmers' Kitchen—Sweet Treasures

    I’ve always had a certain fascination with root vegetables, grown secretly and mysteriously beneath the cool, dark ground. Root crops weather the changes of the growing season in private, developing steadily out of sight all summer. This makes the harvest of these subterranean crops somewhat like the unveiling of a new work of art: the earth is opened with shovels and forks, and hands reach in. The clinging dirt is swept away and the shape and color of the root is finally revealed after months of secret creation.

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  • Last Morsel—In the Garden

    Last Morsel—In the Garden

    Growing food in a garden gives us a close-up look at Life—like being at the New England Aquarium in Boston and pressing up against the glass to watch a giant turtle swim by. In the garden, though, we do more than just stand at the glass. Rather, we work with the web of life, cooperate with nature, collaborate with Mother Earth. Want to know how roots work? Grow food. Want to learn how to keep somebody healthy? Grow food. Want to care if it rains? Grow food.

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  • The Great Vermont Barn Census

    The Great Vermont Barn Census

    If you love barns, or history, or just love roaming around Vermont talking to people, you may enjoy participating in the Vermont Barn Census. Launched in August by the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation and other organizations, the Census invites volunteers to talk with barn owners about their old barns, then enter information about the architecture and past uses into an online database. The idea is to create a descriptive catalogue of Vermont’s estimated 5,000 barns before they succumb to old age, weather, or demolition. Volunteers can work individually, in pairs, or through organized groups, and plenty of information on barn architecture is provided; you don’t have to be an expert to participate.

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Three Square—Fall 2008


Written By

Denny Partridge

Written on

September 01 , 2008

Growing up in Vermont I ate chokecherries, dandelions, venison, and tempura daylilies. I recently returned to live here full time. Since then, I’ve noticed that conversation often turns to food. What’s for dinner? This is the fourth and last installment of a series in which I’ve visited a variety of Vermonters in their homes, peered into their iceboxes, and shared their thoughts about what they eat. Because of the often personal nature of their stories, I’ve chosen to omit their last names.


“I don’t care much about cooking,” Edith tells me. “I don’t put much stock in it. My highest value is children. I love children. I wrote a history of Weathersfield for the children here. When they took a field trip to the old town cemetery, they knew the people buried there, they recognized all the names.”

We’re sitting on the sun porch outside Edith’s kitchen door. She has a pile of books beside her to read—history, poetry, nature. Old toys are neatly lined up: a dollhouse, a small gas station, toy trucks, and a few dolls, ready for young visitors. Edith holds on to a hefty cane; her leg is bum now, she says. She is 88.

Forty years ago, when a highway was routed through her family’s New Hampshire farm, Edith and her husband and four children moved to Vermont, to Weathersfield, where her husband’s aunts—privileged maiden ladies from Philadelphia—had a classic Vermont farmhouse and a barn big enough for Edith’s family to build a house in. When the aunts died, Edith’s family moved into the main house.

Edith has had a full life as a writer, newspaper publisher, radio commentator, teacher, mother, and community leader. She lives alone now, but with family close by. Her mind is lively and critical. And her applesauce, which I’d tasted at a friend’s house, is delicious.

“I make scads of applesauce. I work around the bugs. I cut up the apples. I don’t skin them. Then I put them in the Foley food mill. The other thing I make is vichyssoise. It’s the Vichyssoise a la Ritz recipe from The New York Times Cookbook. Four leeks and an onion, a stick of butter, five potatoes, and a quart of chicken broth. Boil this for 35 minutes and then put it all in the blender. Freeze that in small portions; when you want some, defrost it. When you’re ready to eat it, heat it up, and add the milk and cream. I make lots and eat it all year long.”
Edith uses a blender, never a food processor. “Years ago I wanted a blender and asked my son Will to get me one. ‘I think I have one in the back of my car,’ he said, and he did. He went right out and got it. I’m still using it, the same one.”

“I’m not a venturesome cook,” she explains. “I have greens for lunch and iced coffee; sometimes soup, too. For breakfast I have a poached egg on toast, coffee, orange juice, and strawberry jam. But the strawberry bed isn’t doing very well this year.”

“We’re having marvelous lettuce this summer, though, mesclun, and three kinds of garlic. My daughter-in-law isn’t crazy about gardening. She takes care of the onions. My daughter Ibby—she lives in North Carolina—plants all the squash when she comes up to visit.”

It’s her youngest son Charlie’s garden now, she tells me. She gave it over to him this year. “And he’s started going by some book. Here I’ve been planting for years with good tomatoes, and now Ibby and Charlie have put wool around them and they’re not getting any sun. Wool!” Edith shakes her head, but is clearly pleased by the collective family effort: six people creating one large and beautiful garden.

“I started my first one in 1948. Our Italian neighbors taught me to braid and hang onions. I learned everything else about gardening from our Russian neighbors, the Prohodskys.”

I ask what she ate growing up. “My father loved to make quahog chowder. We had baked beans on Saturday night. On Sunday we’d have Welsh rarebit around the fire. We lived in Roxbury, in Boston. He had a wonderful little garden, with two pear trees, an apple tree, tomatoes, and rhubarb.”

Before I leave Edith gets the car out and we drive around back. She points out two large apple trees. “Aunt Margaret—the nice one, Ibby used to call her—her ashes are scattered there, under the Northern Spy. We planted it in her memory. Aunt Mary’s are over there, under the Yellow Transparent.”

We pass the sugarhouse where this year Edith and her sons made 16 gallons of maple syrup in 10 boils. The pig house is empty, but the woodpile, stacked along the road, is high. It’ll heat the main house, as well as the barn-house where her son Graham and his wife now live.

I spy a wild turkey on the hillside. We stop, and a parade of small turkeys slowly comes into view. Edith is delighted. “Look! They’re back! And this time they’ve brought their whole family with them.”

About the Author

Denny Partridge

Denny Partridge

Denny Partridge acts and directs with Mud Time Theater of Bellows Falls. She’s currently touring with THE NINE QUESTIONS, a new play about a rocky Vermont marriage in 1760.

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