Neither of us had ever climbed a mountain. True, there are metaphorical mountains that we (all) face on what seems to be a daily basis, but this one was real—made of earth, sticks, and stones; piled nearly 2000 feet high. Haystack Mountain has been on our To Do List ever since we arrived in Vermont. It's a beautiful mountain. Its slopes are steep and dotted with trees, situated prominently at the end of a ridge that looms above the town of Pawlet. At some point during nearly every day that we have spent here, we have remarked about Haystack, resolved to summit our favorite local landmark. Yet our ascent was delayed by a quizzical rash of rain and snow on our days off, bookended by pristine, sun-splashed days on the farm. March passed, and most of April too—our return to Ohio (and Greece) rapidly approaching.
During those days and weeks we did not spend climbing Haystack, we spent gaining a real sense of calling on the farm. Strangely—at least strangely to two family-obsessed Ohioans—Consider Bardwell Farm began to feel like a home. It revealed itself as a place where we could grow and learn about a craft, a lifestyle, and ourselves. So we suddenly found ourselves faced with a new mountain: the desire to stay in Vermont.
How could we? It was a question both literal and open-ended. Literal in the respect that, when we arrived, there were no prospects for us to stay on in a permanent role. We were (and are) Kidding Interns: positions confined to a two-month period when kids are being born on the farm. But that changed in an exciting and startling way when we began discussing an extended internship. Then we began discussing becoming permanent employees. It was at that point that it became more open-ended: how could we do this? How could we move away from our families that we love so much, around whom our lives revolve? That is a question for which we simply do not have the answer.
So we are going to start climbing. We have resolved to face the mountain and seek its summit. We are going to stay in Vermont and learn how to manage a farm. We will learn how to manage a young marriage away from family. We will pledge allegiance to the land on which we stand, grounded in the knowledge that we do stand on the same earth that our loved ones do, only many miles away. It is both heartbreaking and exhilarating. Neither of us have ever felt so purpose driven before as we do now.
We reached the top Haystack Mountain on a Monday afternoon so clear that we could look upon the Adirondacks and the shores of Lake Champlain, turn around, and view mile after mile of the Green Mountain National Forest. After a steep stretch of craggy trail—a challenge nowhere near insurmountable, but nevertheless worthy of heavy breathing and sweat on our brows—the view at the top was worth the effort. And so, we will keep trying, keep climbing.
Burlington—or, the idea of Burlington—was our original draw to Vermont. We knew it was a medium-sized city that boasted Lake Champlain, a view of the Adirondack mountains, renewable energy, and pedestrian-friendly streets. We ended up two hours south of Burlington in the rural village of West Pawlet. A better situation, to be sure. The draw to see Burlington withstanding, we took a road trip north with our friends Pete (head farmer at Consider Bardwell, and our boss for all intents and purposes) and Abi (his partner, who is a Nurse Practitioner by day and a volunteer farmer by night). It seems important to mention that they are both entrenched in Vermont's food and beverage culture, rendering them our perfect travel companions.
This particular day trip was, in many ways, the antithesis of our daily existence. We switched from producer to consumer, retreating from the barn to delight in the offerings of charming diners, cafes, and shops. The earthy tones of Vermont's rural landscape were replaced by colorful murals and streetscapes. Our dirty work clothes (and their companion scents) were far, far away. It was wonderful. It was also exhausting. Make no mistake, we savored every bit of it: the world-class beers, the tacos (oh, the tacos...), the record shop, the outdoors stores, et cetera. Burlington offers as much for the day tripper to do and see as any place we have found, doing so on a manageable scale in a breathtaking setting. We are eager to visit again sometime, but not before enjoying some time back in the country. We've included a roundup of our favorite spots, very worth visiting if you are like us.
. . . a roundup of our favorite spots in Burlington
Boasting a great selection of jazz and blues vinyl. If you are partial to a disheveled, semi-seedy record shop with mountains of $2 records that have gems if you are willing to look (as is our preference), this is probably not the place for you. If you want to find a mint condition Duke Ellington record (like us), stop in.
El Cortijo Taqueria y Cantina
The best "farm-to-taco" joint we never knew existed. With offerings like lengua (beef tongue) and carne (beef shoulder) topped with phenomenal chimmichurri, it's worth $5 per taco. Their draught list includes Hill Farmstead and The Alchemist, two of Vermont's best breweries (HF is the best).
City Market / Onion River Co-Op
A grocery lover's dream come true. With every sort of food, beverage, and apothecary provision you can imagine, it's a beautiful place to find everything rural areas would never have.
The Farmhouse Tap & Grill
Extensive local tap list and a relaxed, clean atmosphere conducive to an afternoon beer. We hear they have a speakeasy, though we did not have a chance to check it out.
. . . and the surrounding area
Fiddlehead Brewing Company (Shelburne, VT)
Second Fiddle Double IPA is, simply put, a damn fine beer.
The Vermont Flannel Company (Ferrisburgh, VT)
The name alone should be sufficient. Head here if you have dreamt of a store dedicated to flannel everything (including flannel fanny packs—flanny pack!?—and $3 flannel scrunchies that you know Sam is wearing right now).
. . . and a bit of a hike away
Three Squares Cafe (Vergennes, VT)
If you were driving south to north, stop here for breakfast. Great coffee (the light roasted, caffeine high inducing sort) and big plates of high-quality diner fare. Bonus: Vergennes is the smallest city in America!