There are two artist/entrepreneurs whom I have put on a pedestal, for good reason. Meleen Dupre & Charlotte Lyons host Vermont getaways which promise relaxing accommodations in preciously and casually appointed old farm homes which are side-by-side in nearby East Arlington, complete with ample, homemade fare. They feature our pies and baked treats & there hasn’t been a complaint about being underfed yet. Events include artist-led direction and hand-crafting, materials provided, outings into the surrounding community which are as simple as walking the local streets to antique and tag sale or pop in their cars and caravan around to the area’s highlights.
I don’t want to steal their thunder, so you really ought to read their blogs, follow their InstaGrams or Facebook pages to see what gorgeousness they get up to, what steals they find(cue: my new old floor loom, for FREE!), and the meals & memories they share. Charlotte even gave my tired overalls a new lease on life with her expert handstitching. It is heartening to be a part of their positive, creative energy.
We’re so thrilled to be on their list of highlights. At the farm, we whip into gear ahead of time to prepare a space for entertaining the troops, of which there are a minimum of a dozen visitors, and finish the sweep with a flourish of bunting across the barn-door entrance. My to-do list includes quite a bit of kitchen work, tidying in the house a bit, but mostly spiffing up the yard and the barn, knocking down cobwebs and last, but not least, the ever-popular “De-Dog-Poop.” I would be doing these things anyway, but preparation for visitors always inspires me to clean a little more, shine up the dingy spots where I see them.
There are certain goats, sheep, alpacas, pups, piggies, more…that rise to the occasion of the guests and they provide a great peek into the daily life of a shepherdess. Most of our animals are friendly & well conditioned to people. Some are characters and spit at you if you’re in their face(Indie takes his sheep-watching job pretty seriously.) This last autumn visit allowed for a brand-spanking new lamb to be included in the tour. The immaculate conception of Lincoln gives our farm a whole new glow.
Beside showing off the farm, some of the activities & workshops we’ve offered have been shearing days, wet-felting goats’ milk soaps, needle felting autumn decorations and an introduction to hand-spinning wool. My daughters were able to come home from college to help me with the separate events, and I am so grateful to them. Without their extra hands to carry laden crockpots, shuttle baskets of yarn, place tablecloths, organize tools and materials…vacuum, put away the dishes, stash that pile…without their help I would have been able to do it, yes, but not nearly as joyfully.
I was especially grateful to our overnight guest, my farming and fiber-artist mentor, Debbie Kirby. Debbie drove down from her home up north and slept over to offer two days of private spinning lessons. Sarah Jane & I unloaded her two wheels and brought out our two wheels to have four stations of spinning set up in the barn. Debbie put in a full, full day without complaint and I think she had a great time. She brought her boots, so we had a little time in the fields with the animals. It’s always good to sit with the goats with her – they used to be hers! – and find out her assessment of their fiber, what her read is on their health. I think of her as my Angora Goat guru and value her opinions very much. She also brought her knitting needles and patiently sat up with me into the night to help me knit and purl. I’m making progress, Debbie – I am!
Because Vermont is synonymous with Maple syrup , Greer Kobik represented the state well when she taught everyone the A-Z of Maple syrup making, and provided the opportunity to take home a jug directly from the producer. She and her husband Rick have been running “Maple Hill Maple” as a family business since the early 80s. The getaway-gang invited Greer into the fold like an old friend, and the two of us have found ourselves enchanted by their kind, creative and loving spell.
Last, but not least, this past month’s gatherings also included a very popular memoir-workshop with my dear neighbor and friend, accomplished author Megan Mayhew Bergman. Megan’s newest historical fiction collection, “Almost Famous Women”, is available for Pre-order from Battenkill Books & will arrive on shelves on January 6, 2015. Introducing Megan was my honor, and treat, but I flubbed it up both times. The first time I jumped into the chatter with a more-or-less “Hear ye! Hear ye! My friend: Megan!” And the second time, when I’d prepared a careful introduction, I was detained by a late arrival of our sheep shearer and showed up from the barn in my smelly, holey overalls midway through her workshop. There was no need for a fussy intro anyway, as Megan holds her own just fine. There was a great discussion and good questions, easy banter, and a respectful appreciation for Megan’s expertise & generous spirit.
My friend George stopped by during the middle of one of the weekend workshops and I needed to catch her rooster, Fabio. He’d had a summer-long playdate here while her hens matured. Though he was freeranging, Fabio was easy to catch. He’s docile and sweet, and George & I chatted in the driveway for a bit after his capture. I explained why about the hoopla in the barn, all the cars, etc.. George said, “What a brilliant idea, what a wonderful event…” or something to that extent. I agreed. Thinker that she is, she then queried, “Why aren’t we Vermont women doing that? What are we doing for a getaway?!”
I don’t know, George. I’m hosting enthusiastic and quality folk from around the country, living vicariously through them. It’s pretty fulfilling.
How cool to meet everyone from all corners of the contiguous U.S. and I now have a place to rest my head from Martha’s Vineyard to Texas and everywhere in between.
Many of the participants are repeat customers, that’s how quality they find their time together, and sign-ups go fast. So if this is something you think you’d like to learn more about, I urge you to contact Charlotte and follow her postings to hop on the next plane, train or automobile to Vermont to join in the fun. If it is not an outing you envision yourself taking, if I’ve learned anything from the Meleen and Charlotte’s Vermont Getaway events, we’re better folk for treating ourselves to a bit of sunshine. And, make time to make something beautiful.