Soul-Restoring Trip to the Northeast Kingdom and an Update on the Amish in Vermont

Photo by Saloma Furlong of Bald Hill Pond in Vermont

 

 David and I had not left the state of Virginia since March when the pandemic became a stark reality for all of us. So a few months ago, we planned a trip to the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. We stayed in an Airbnb lodge on “Blackberry Hill” in West Glover, with two gracious hosts, Anne and Brian. This was our home away from home. Each day we went out on adventures: biking, birding, canoeing, visiting lakes, and driving around the countryside. David even went swimming in Caspian Lake and Long Pond, even though the temps were in the fifties and thirties, respectively.

We visited at least 24 lakes and ponds. The largest was Lake Memphremagog, and the smallest was Bean Pond. The water was crystal clear in most cases. Memphremagog was not as clear as most of the other lakes.

 

Photo by Saloma Furlong of Lake Memphremagog

 

Photo by Saloma Furlong of the water in Lake Seymour

 

We canoed on Lake Willoughby. Long Pond, and Peacham Pond.

 

Photo by Saloma Furlong of Lake Willoughby

 

Photo by Saloma Furlong of Long Pond

 

Our son, Paul, joined us with his kayak on Peacham Pond. One loon came up close to us when we pulled into shore as if it was curious about us.

Photo by Saloma Furlong of Peacham Pond

We saw lots of birds, some of which are familiar to us in the North: loons, mergansers, kingfishers, chickadees, woodpeckers, flickers, and blue jays. Then we also saw unusual birds such as thrushes (we’re not certain whether we saw hermit thrushes, Swainson’s thrushes, or the rare Bicknell’s thrushes, or even a combination of these), a female ruffed grouse, a brown creeper, and Paul and I saw a yellow-rumped warbler. Then there were those we didn’t see well enough to identify, but they piqued our interest all the same.

Here is one more photo of Serenity on water:

 

Photo by Saloma Furlong of Newark Pond

We enjoyed spending time with Paul. We wore masks when we were in indoor spaces but when we were outdoors, we engaged more freely. On Saturday evening, we ate at a cafe in Waterbury Center that had a tent set up outdoors, despite temps being in the thirties. They had heaters set up, where we could sit and listen to live music. Our trip was not without its challenges. We had car troubles twice, once when we picked up a nail and got a flat tire. Then we only had a donut for a spare, so we had to buy a new tire before our return trip. Overall, though, this trip was proof that we’re never too old to make new memories. Though the experiences of the trip only lasted eight days, we trust that the memories we made will be with us for the rest of our days.

We also spent a good bit of time driving around the countryside. It felt strange to see horse and buggy signs near Lake Willoughby. I wrote about the first Amish families arriving in Vermont in a former blog post. David and I stopped at a veggie stand at an Amish farm. I asked how many families were living in the area, and the farmer said eighteen. I asked what brought them to the area, and he said farm land, and they thought that they area might support them. I asked if that has been the case, and he shrugged his shoulders this way and that. Then he said that there is one store that starting buying several kinds of vegetables from them, but indicated the support is slow in coming.

I observed several things during my brief visit. No one in the family was wearing masks. With the measures most Vermonters are taking to control the spread of the virus, I cannot imagine this makes them popular with other Vermonters.

Several daughters walked out of the barn in their bare feet, even though it was cold enough that they were wearing coats. The style of coverings and mode of dress indicated that this is a conservative group. When I spoke to the father of the first family to settle there a few years ago, I found they were from a daughter settlement of the community in Conewango Valley of New York state. That is indeed a conservative group. An uncle, an aunt, and their families lived there when I was growing up.

I also noticed that the veggies and the cantaloupe we bought were not very fresh. Without signs on the main roads, I imagine the people who find their way to this farm on a dirt road are few and far between.

I have to wonder if these Amish families will stay in Vermont. With a shorter growing season, I can imagine it would be hard to eke out a living by farming in the thin soil of Vermont. Some years ago I predicted that the Amish would find their way to the state of Vermont. Now I am not predicting whether they will stay or move. Only time will tell.

In closing this blog post, I end with this photo I took while driving around the dirt roads of Derby, up near the Canadian border on our way to pick apples at an orchard. I love how the cloud shadows are cast on the mountainside. Breathing in that fresh mountain air and seeing these vistas reminded me that Beauty and God’s Love are one in the same.

 

Photo by Saloma Furlong
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10 thoughts on “Soul-Restoring Trip to the Northeast Kingdom and an Update on the Amish in Vermont”

  1. What a beautiful place to live!! Just not sure, I would like the winters! Thank you for sharing the pictures. They made me feel as if I was on a vacation. Vermont has got to be one of the prettiest states to visit in the fall. I also have only been off the property 5 times in 6 months. Sometimes it bothers me but most times it doesn’t. Guess I have a “hermit spirit”.

    1. Kris, having a “hermit spirit” is not a bad thing right now… it is perhaps a good survival strategy. I have often wished since March that I wasn’t so extroverted.

      I’m with you on not wanting to weather the Vermont winters. I did for nearly 30 years, but as I get older, I’m happy with the milder winters that Virginia offers.

      Thank you for your comments.

  2. A lovely vacation, I felt I was there, with you sharing your beautiful photos and your observations. We will be having our first trip away from home this weekend. A cottage in the country. Hopefully it will help us recharge our energy and faith. Blessings to you. Diane x (In the UK).

    1. Diane, I’m glad you felt like you were with me in Vermont. Photos can do that…

      I would love to hear how you enjoyed your weekend at the cottage in the country. It sounds lovely.

      1. We stayed in a typical English country cottage, surrounded by lovely gardens and acres of fields. All you could hear was birdsong and animals. I found myself smiling at the peacefulness, also remembering how amazing creation is and I enjoyed the colours of the season. My family seem relaxed and are now ready to return to work refreshed. Having little internet meant we did simple things like reading, playing a game and just talking. I highly recommend simplifying your life even for a short time. X

  3. Denise Ann Shea

    What beautiful photos! I love Vermont (but not the winters). I have friends who live on a farm near Stowe and it is lovely in the summer/fall. I’m an introvert, so staying in has been relatively easy for me. However, with nice fall weather and church starting up again I have started taking my lunch to the beach and thinking that it could time I make a weekend trip to the Berkshires before winter. I’m wondering about the Amish–my farm friends also have jobs outside the farm (one teaches school and the other is in sales). He’s a native Vermonter and would agree that farming alone wouldn’t bring in much income. How long does a settlement stay if the families can’t make a living?

    1. Denise, it’s good to see you here. I’m glad you enjoyed the photos.

      Your question about how long an Amish settlement will stay put if they cannot make a go of it all depends on many factors… the individuals themselves, and how committed they are to hanging in there, what their reasons were for leaving their “mother community” (such as leaving “church trouble”), and what they perceive as their alternative. Back in 1977, there were two Amish families living in Shoreham, Vermont. They were renting a farm and it was a dry growing season. The families wanted another year to decide, but the landlord said they needed to buy or move out. So they moved out.

      This is why I’m not taking any guesses as to whether they will stay or leave.

  4. For some reason I’m not getting notice of your blog still, I will have to look into that. Thank you for sharing your trip with us. Such beautiful photo’s. Vermont is a favorite state of mine. Only had the chance to be there three times but would love to go back again. Sounds like a relaxing time. I love looking out for different birds. I’m certainly not an expert birder, but I love watching them. I do all I can to bring them to my yard. Paul and I have a camper north of us and there is an Amish stand we go to through out the summer months to buy vegetables. Though Pennsylvania has pretty strike rules about Covid none of them wore masks. Maybe because they are outside? Question for you, did you speak to them in your Amish dialect? Reason I’m asking is because even though I have been going to this stand for 6 years they are still pretty reserved in their conversations with me. I’m surprised that those you spoke with answered your questions, not that they were intrusive questions. Especially since you thought they may have been a more conservative group.

    1. Hello Pamela! I’m sorry to hear that you’re not receiving notices from my blog. Perhaps you can go to the subscription to the right of the blog and enter your email. If that doesn’t work, please let me know and I’ll see if I can get my web administrator to take a look at it.

      My guess is the Amish you dealt with are like the Amish in most places… they “place their trust in God, not in masks,” so it didn’t matter if they were inside or out. They believe what will be will be, and that we all have a given time on this earth, predetermined by God, so it doesn’t matter what we do. This is the general attitude among the mainstream Amish.

      This time when I spoke to the Amish family in Vermont, I didn’t reveal that I came from the Amish in Ohio. I find they start clamming up if they know that. They tend to be more open with “outsiders” if they ask questions that are not too personal, but rather has to do with their community. Some Amish are more reserved than others, of course. The more conservative, the less open they they tend to be with others.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the photos of Vermont. I hope you get a chance to return to Vermont sometime.

      Thanks for stopping by, Pamela.

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