Posts Tagged With: mud season

Stepping Out in Style (plus a little music)

Regular readers of these pages know how dedicated I am to style, as well as the dignity and respect with which I treat the subject. In fact, in 2013, an entire Flashback Friday post was dedicated to style — the appropriately titled Style Issue. Since then, we’ve covered style from head to toe, with posts about hats, men’s outfits, and even shoes, all with the seriousness such subjects deserve and the gravitas readers have come to expect from me.

The inspiration for today’s post comes from the pages of The New Yorker‘s recent Spring Style Issue — specifically, the third page in.

Occasionally bumps into things.

I have grown used to not being in a target demographic when it comes to such ad campaigns, and it’s probably just as well. The handsome young man in that Armani ad is wearing lovely shoes but I am struck by several things when I look at it. First, there is a smudge on the right side of the page. It’s barbecue sauce and, for that, I apologize. Second, that man’s britches seem a little short to me and, around here, anyone with pants that short and not wearing socks is bound to pick up ticks. Third, those shoes look expensive and I shudder to think what even a mild case of plantar hyperhidrosis might do to the silk linings. Talk about smelly dogs!

Things might be different if I lived in Rome, but those are definitely not the shoes for me or, for that matter, anyone else I know. I live in Vermont and, curious to see what kinds of fashionistas I’ve been consorting with, I set out with my camera last Saturday to record some of the fancy footwear I came across. Okay, I didn’t set out anywhere; I spent half the day and all damn night in a sugarhouse and took pictures of people’s shoes as they came through.

Shoes, but only because someone made them wear something.

Boots make sense this time of year but I know those children. Their feet are covered only under protest. I also have a feeling socks weren’t part of the deal, either.

Easy on, easy off.

A gently worn Carhartt barn coat is the pinnacle of style around here, especially with something you can kick off and slip on easily. For some, laces are superfluous.

Sturdy and handsome, just like their wearer!

When an angry mom tells you to stop taking pictures of her child’s feet, do so immediately and take a picture of your own. Those boots are laced tight precisely so they don’t slip off, especially as a hot iron door swings open.

Basic black is always in style.

If the shoes worn by the model in that Armani ad were to get dirty or, heaven forbid, scuffed, there would surely be a very expensive leather emergency and perhaps even some crying. As long as they aren’t too deeply gashed, most of the shoes I came across last Saturday can simply be hosed off if the dirt is bothersome.

Ready for working, dancing, or just standing around.

Even late at night, when the Beautiful People flit about, the footwear didn’t change much, proving that day-time classics work just as well in the evening.

Speaking of smelly dogs…

I’m not the only person I know in Vermont with a subscription to The New Yorker but, when it comes to fashion and style, we are a very underserved demographic. I hope magazine editors and “influencers” will see this and make some effort to include some maple chic in their next campaign. The real kind, just like our syrup; not that corny catalog stuff.

Meanwhile, we’re working on a food issue for those with especially refined palates.

Cover spread for the Food Issue

«——————–»

Now for some music.

It’s not every day that an old shuttle van with Kansas plates slogs through the mud and up the hill to the sugarhouse, but just such a thing happened last weekend. The occupants of that van were not a bunch of senior citizens out for a joy ride or a church group on a lark, no sir. Instead, it was Carrie Nation and the Speakeasy, a band from Wichita, Kansas, on their way to do a show down the road at Magic Mountain.

Carrie Nation and the Speakeasy

With an eclectic sound that has been described as “a stagecoach in overdrive”, they blend bluegrass and brass with ska, punk and dixieland, at times even sounding like Tom Waits doing klezmer. After a few maple dogs and distilled beverages, they played a couple of songs as the syrup boiled, turning a good Saturday afternoon into a great one. It was enough to make us wish the sap wasn’t running so we could take the night off to go see their show. Carrie Nation and the Speakeasy is on tour through June; clicking the link to their website will take you to their schedule.

I’ve shared a video of them at Bobo’s Mountain Sugar on my Quill Gordon Facebook Page and here’s a video from the show they did that night. Enjoy. I’m pretty sure they weren’t wearing Armani, either.

 

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Categories: +Uncategorized, Humor, Maple Syrup, Rural Life, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Something is Running and It’s not Me

Long-term weather forecasts can be useful but they are subject to change and not always accurate. A predicted period of snow showers followed by a slight warm-up can become 10 days of ice, snow and arctic winds followed by a drastic melt-down and, before you know it, the scramble is on. In this case, the scramble is up and down and across the slopes of Bobo’s Mountain, driving taps into every available maple tree before the sap starts running in earnest.

Making Tracks

Making Tracks

By mid-afternoon, sap was dripping from freshly drilled holes before spiles could be driven and drop lines hooked up. Licking a tree is not something normally done in polite company, but up on the hill, where nobody can see, why not? Faintly sweet and tasting of forest, those first drips are an elixir, pushing aside visions of snow drifts and cold, replacing them with thoughts of mud, hot fires and steam.

Across the Brook

Across the Brook

With all hands on deck, the last tap went in yesterday afternoon and the collection tank began to fill. Some of those hands, though, are a little worse for the wear, scraped by rough bark and sliced by sharp bits, all in pursuit of syrup.

Professional Hand Models, Bobo's Mountain Style

Professional Hand Models, Bobo’s Mountain Style

Today, the arch will be fired up to boil the first run of sap on Bobo’s Mountain, giving sore muscles and busted knuckles a break and allowing those hands to experience burns and scalds instead.

Bring on the mud!

 

Categories: Maple Syrup, Rural Life, Winter | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Here Comes Sugar Bob!

Here Comes Sugar Bob!

Here Comes Sugar Bob!

And there goes Sugar Bob, heading home for a long boil.

Heading Home for a Long Boil

Heading Home for a Long Boil

Sugar Bob makes maple syrup, gathering sap from stands he’s tapped all over the freakin’ place. You can hear his rig coming from a long way off, especially when he’s motoring through the mud with a load on. That sap is headed for a tank above the cabana, to be boiled down into syrup as only Sugar Bob can make it. I wouldn’t pour it on my pancakes, but Sugar Bob’s Finest Kind Smoked Maple Syrup is one of the greatest Secret Ingredients yet devised by Man.

Sugar makers don’t get to see each other much at times like this so Sugar Bob passed along his respects to the good folks at Bobo’s Mountain Sugar and I was happy to carry his message to the other side of the valley this afternoon. Continue reading

Categories: Maple Syrup, nature, Rural Life, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mud Season Started Today

There is always some uncertainty, once the leaves are off the trees, as to when, exactly, winter begins. Snow flies and cold wind blows but it’s not so bad crossing the dooryard or heading out for chores until, one day, a cuss word comes out and, gosh darn it, you just know it’s winter.

Even spring comes in fits and starts and the long-johns stay on until that fickle season regains our trust and we finally take them off (or cut them off when, as often happens with my good friend Eugene, our body hair grows through the weave over the course of the cold months). We don’t put them away for the season just yet, though; experience has taught us that they may be needed again before Memorial Day.

With Mud Season, however, there is no doubt and, in this neck of the woods, Mud Season started today.

Some people don’t believe in Mud Season, having never seen it for themselves. They wonder out loud how bad it could be and believe they could handle it, if they had to, but they don’t, and they can smile their smug smiles unchallenged.

Some believe it is real but, like trading blows with a kangaroo, aren’t sure they’d be up for it themselves and decide watching from a safe distance is probably the best option.

Some people see it for the first time and can’t believe it’s possible. Surely something can be done, if only we thought outside the box, but there is no box think outside of. The bottom has been dropping out for as long as anyone can remember, no matter what anyone has done, and Mud Season is a fact of life in rural Vermont.

If a spot gets particularly bad, a mention to the road crew will at least get some attention, but storming into the Town Office and declaring it is impossible to get around will gain you no good will, especially when your very presence disproves your point.

This morning at 10:00, when I headed out on an errand, our road was just fine. A few wet spots, maybe, but overall still frozen with a good sprinkling of sand. By noon it was a different story and the plot thickened as the day progressed.

Mud Season  is real and complaining will get you nowhere. It won’t even make you feel better. A good slog through Mud Season will send some people packing while others might hang on for another season or two, whining all the way. Everyone else will smarten up and adjust their lives, gaining a little something in the process as they learn to accept yet another thing they cannot change.

The first day of Mud Season, 2016, in slide-show form:

 

 

Categories: nature, Rural Life, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

Made in Vermont Hybrid Vehicle

A Hybrid of What, We Don't Know, But It's Got a Load On.

A Hybrid of What, We Don’t Know, But It’s Got a Load On.

Part Chevy, part who knows what, that’s a custom rig right there, sitting on my ice-coated driveway toward the end of a winter that made me wonder why I bothered with marker stakes. There may well be pieces of more than two vehicles involved, pieced together with ingenuity, baling wire and spot welds, and when it’s not wearing a plow on its nose it’s perfect for hauling and spreading sand (or, in this case, 1/4″ chipped stone). It has also been spotted in the village, in front of the pre-school, dropping off kiddos.

The weather has been a bit of a hybrid, itself, these last few weeks. Booger-freezing cold one day, rainy and almost warm the next, there have been pieces of at least two seasons involved and their bastard child is ice.

Coated

Coated

Continue reading

Categories: Humor, Maple Syrup, nature, Rural Life, Vermont, Winter | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Bit of a Jam, Part II

When winter and spring duke it out they both end up looking silly, the dooryard fills with slush and streams jump their banks. Freezing rain gave way yesterday to sleet and ice pellets before turning to snow last night, which is when the lightning and thunder began. Another band of rain moved through with a shot of warm air and this morning felt positively balmy.

Fish in a Barrel Pond, February 25, 2016

Fish in a Barrel Pond, February 25, 2016

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Categories: Rural Life, Vermont, Winter | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Emerges, Snarling

The curmudgeonly demeanor so essential to my charm nearly veered into the ditch of sociopathic behavior a few times this winter as the Shack Nasties made their annual bid for control. The Shack Nasties are terrible things, related to Cabin Fever but having nothing to do with the need to get outside. Cabin Fever is easily treated but the Shack Nasties are insidious and, once contracted, their cure consists mostly of endurance. Hundreds of blog posts and internet articles appeared this winter, with headlines like “Ten Quick Hacks to Beat the Winter Blahs” and I could almost relate, but my hacking was from working in the cold air and, on a good day, if I tried real hard, I could almost get myself worked up to “blah.”

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When folks who are used to a lot of snow say, “That’s a lot of snow,” you know it’s a lot of snow.

Ya think?

Ya think?

Continue reading

Categories: Maple Syrup, Rural Life, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

An Early Spring Ramble

The beginning of spring in these parts was marked by a storm that dumped more than a foot of new snow. Winter’s keen, cold edge might have been worn down but her message remained blunt. The temperature dropped, the sap ceased running and it seemed for a few days that ours was the grumpiest village in the world. It’s not often people admit out loud that they wish it was mud season already.

Their wishes have been granted and, while it may be too soon to tell for sure, this year’s mud looks to be at least average.

101_0113

Mud season takes some by surprise, especially those who recently moved here from other places looking for the “rural chic” of catalogs and magazines. If a full Vermont winter didn’t do them in they must be sorely disappointed when March rolls around and tosses chic in a ditch, leaving them with only the rural. If there were a way to keep dirt roads dry in the spring I’m sure a Vermonter would have figured it out by now, but mud season is such a part of Vermont’s culture that maybe someone’s just keeping it a secret, so as to not spoil the fun. Continue reading

Categories: nature, Rural Life, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , | 12 Comments

A Big Old Dose of Spring

At Town Meeting, back on the 6th, I was told Mud Season would begin on the 7th.

It did.

A protracted spell of unseasonable warmth made it even deeper and more tenacious than usual and, two and a half weeks later, it’s still not over. Entire dump truck loads of stone continue to disappear in the slop.

While several feet of saturated road bed thawed in the warm spring sun this week, the ice on the lake remained thick, but not to be trusted.

Continue reading

Categories: Humor, nature, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

Answering Some Mail

(At the top of this page is a tab that reads “Contact Quill” which will bring up a form you can use to send old Quill an email. A few readers have actually used it, and I’d like to share with you some of the notes I have received.)

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Dear Quill,

I subscribed to your blog, but this is not at all what I had in mind and now I regret my decision. How do I make the email notifications stop?

Signed, Disgruntled in Denver

Dear Disgruntled,

I am sorry to hear you are no longer gruntled, but how do you think I feel, having to look at it every darn day? Take a look at the bottom of your email notification; there should be a link that says “Unsubscribe”. Click it and follow the directions, and you will never again be notified that impotant pieces like “Careful With That Axe, Eugene“, “A Craft Project With My Friend, Eugene“, or “Eugene and the Dangers of Shatter Proof Glass” have been foisted upon an unsuspecting readership proudly published. ~QG 

Otter, Fish in a Barrel Pond 3/10/12

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Dear Quill,

L.L. Bean’s very special Spring Fishing Expo and 100th Anniversary Celebration is this weekend. We’ll give you ten thousand dollars to stay away.

Signed, Freeport Chamber of Commerce

Dear Freeport Chamber of Commerce,

Your offer is tempting but, as much as I wanted to be there for what is sure to be a great weekend (including fly tying demonstrations by Don Bastian, a man with many stories that somehow involve him in his underwear, by the way), I must send my regrets for free. You see, I will be staying away for reasons of love.

My love of anglers.

I try to pretend I am an angler, just like everybody else, but I am not. I am an angler who, when others act on the urge to get away from it all, greets them when they arrive. I clean up after them when they leave, and then, on Sunday afternoon, I try to catch fish in a lake that has been whipped to a froth by them since Friday evening. I also take their reservations, which for the past month have been carefully regulated for fairness (only x number of nights per month, etc.). Starting March 16th, however, those rules are relaxed and anything goes. Someone must be here when they call, and that someone is I.

Freeport is safe this year, as I take one for the team, so everyone who can make it should attend. And be sure to say “Hi” to Don — he’s really starting to get the hang of tying those flies! ~QG Continue reading

Categories: Humor | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

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