Friday, December 6, 2013

Keeping Vermont weird

I thought I might gather up some random thoughts about  Vermont: the things that have surprised me.

My hairdresser is a pirate. The first time I visited Walter for a haircut, I was sitting in his chair when I noticed something unusual directly in front me, under the shelf under the mirror. Just making conversation really, I asked "so, why have you got a skull and cross bones in your work station?" To my surprise, he said nothing, just swiveled round (with alarming speed) to face me, put his face at my level, and bared his teeth. Then he rolled up his sleeve to show me his tattoo.

"Oh r-ight," I said tentatively, "gold tooth....anchor're a...pirate?"

He beamed at me like I was a good child who'd just passed a difficult test. He's a pirate. The next half hour just waltzed past as we discussed why he didn't bring his parrot to work (too rude to the paying customers), how misunderstood pirates are ("we're the Robin Hoods of the sea, is all!"), and how the neighbours responded when he hoisted up a Jolly Roger flag in his back yard (not well).

Walter and his partner, Annie
 None of our subsequent conversations have ever been quite so startling, but  I never come away without some interesting thoughts. We've discussed, amongst other things, national identity and patriotism, American international relations and the Shut-Down, and protecting horses in Africa. And he cuts my hair beautifully and at half the cost of a hairdresser back home, even including a hefty tip

Freedom. It's the right of everyone to bear arms in this country, we all know that - but what you might not know is that it's NOT their right to have their eyebrows dyed. Huh? The first time I hunted down a beautician and asked them to dye my eyebrows they looked at me in horror. "No. Certainly not." When I asked why not, they said "It's illegal". Illegal? I went to three different shops - same answer. My pirate hairdresser shrugged when I told him: "It's not illegal - they're just afraid of making a mistake and being sued. Another example of our crap litigious culture." Litigious? About eyebrows???

Maple syrup. We all know that maple syrup comes from Vermont (OK, all you Canadians can stop howling with dissent now!) but I hadn't realised how wonderfully and deliciously ubiquitous it would be. There are maple ice creams (called "creemies"), maple cookies, maple sausages, bacon and ham and turkey cured in maple syrup, maple candy, maple granola. Here, I cook with maple syrup: ham baked in maple syrup, I make maple scones and put maple syrup on pancakes. I've even (ssshhhh now) put it in the pavlova. 

Recently, I heard myself say to Emily, when we were in Dakin Farms, "go and ask your Dad if we need more maple syrup" and then realised what an odd statement that was. No-one in NZ needs maple syrup. It's a luxury item. Heavens, the supermarkets sell maple flavoured syrup so that that kiwis can pretend they know what maple syrup tastes like. But maple syrup is a staple in Vermont. It is delicious. I'll worry about our weight and our teeth when we get home. And on a related topic...

Sugar tapping. when we first went past trees that looked like this, we were very puzzled:

 But these are the hollow tubes that allow for the efficient tapping of the maple trees in spring. I do wish we could be here long enough to see this in action!

Guard llamas. You don't see many animals in the fields here, really. But often, when you do see sheep in a paddock, there is a llama too. We were curious. Turns out, sheep are vulnerable to attacks by dogs and coyotes here in Vermont. BUT, add a llama to the paddock, and the chances of successful attack almost drops to 0.

 There is even a guard camel in one paddock on Route 7.

I'm waiting to take a photograph of this brave creature in the snow.

 All of this, to my mind, adds to the joy of being in Vermont! My next blog post, however, is going to show a somewhat different scene. In a few hours we're off to New York City, to celebrate Emily's 12th Birthday. We've asked everyone for tips on what we should do in New York, and then Bruce took charge of the itinerary. He has developed complex plans, downloaded relevant apps and maps, and generally done a brilliant job of working out how we can fit everything we need to see in New York into three days. I can't wait. It will be good to have a break from writing, and to head out to something completely different that we've never seen before.

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