Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Ferrisburgh Central School

The day had finally arrived: the girls' first day at the new school. They had been counting the sleeps - and so had we. Because it was the first day, we took them into school.

Em is saying "Muuum! You're embarrassing me!!!"
Just like Hogwarts ('but without the Sorting hat, or the ghosts, or the magic feast', said Em sardonically), school started with an assembly in the big hall.

The girls were quickly absorbed into the chaos:

We headed off to our suddenly quiet house. What a wonderful peace! We worked hard all morning, had morning tea in the garden, with the chipmunks and the birds, and at lunchtime went kayaking around the bay (yes, really - I did!). Then more work in the afternoon - how amazing it is to be able to concentrate: I can't remember when I was last able to do that. At 3pm we wandered over to the park, to see our girls come home on the yellow school bus. We waited and waited. Here they were at last.

They had had a good day. However, our hope that school  would soak up some of Lizzy's crazy energy was unfounded: she didn't stop talking for the rest of the day. "Well", she explained, " because I'm new I have had to be the quiet one all day, and so now I just have to roar!".

We discover Al Borland's favourite shop

You remember Al Borland, don't you? Tim the Toolman Taylor's hapless assistant on Home Improvement? Well, this week we found his favourite shop, which happens to be just around the corner on Route 7.

Note the cow - the real cows are, for the most part, in barns.

The outside of the shop looks a little mad:

It even has its own covered bridge:

Note the flannel bunting

But the inside ...well, let's say we both stood there with our mouths open.

There were flannel shirts and trousers, and flannel underwear and hats. There were flannel bathrobes and scarves and throws and jackets. There was simple flannel and patchwork flannel.
Bruce tries to resist

But is overcome by the Power that is Flannel
However, I was the one who came home with an elegant pair of flannel pjs - in something approaching the MacKay tartan no less!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Shelburne Farms

In the garden at Shelburne Farms
Today we were up and out early to beat the heat - our destination, the Shelburne Farms. They are famous around here as a grand estate, built up by William Seward and Lila Venderbilt Webb in the late 1880s, but also now as a not-for-profit organisation which is a sustainable farm and education centre.

The grounds (Frederick Olmsted) and architecture (Robert H. Robertson) are simply stunning,
We went on a tour, where the guide told us in detail about the sustainable dairy practices in the farm: rotational grazing is the key she explained. I could almost SEE the exclamation marks rising from the top of Bruce's head. " We don't know how lucky we are in NZ" he murmured, as we drove away from the dairy shed.

The farm barn was pretty fun, though. It had almost a medieval feel with its central courtyard and animals. We watched the cheese makers at work (I want to be a cheese maker!!), and tasted the cheese, and discovered that cheddar is a verb (did you know that? Me neither). We sat outside the 'barn' and ate sticky buns baked on the premises, and said hello to the donkeys and the piglets.

The 'cottage' was....well, not the way you'd normally think of a cottage.

The view from the cottage was to-die for.
I'll admit Bruce's white legs don't add to the view. 

We went for a long walk in the grounds.

I am being Gandalf

We took home from the farm all we needed for a picnic lunch: fresh cheddar chilli bread, smoked cheddar cheese, and crisp local apples.

We had planned a quiet afternoon, since it was very hot. But our landlords popped round to tell us it was Vergennes Day and we really should go. So we set off south, and spent a happy hour listening to an excellent local jazz band on the...I want to say village, but Vergennes is officially a city - so, city green.

And the day wouldn't be complete without an evening on the lake.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Dee's lake house

To get to our cottage, you drive for about 20 minutes south of Burlington, on the Shelburne Road, and turn off at North Ferrisburgh, and venture down Green Bush Road and through this avenue of trees. Woodland on either sides makes way for this:

Dee's lake cottage is set amongst the trees at Long Point, a settlement of mainly vacation homes nestled in around the lake. It has the feeling of a well appointed bach: it's comfortable but not flash. It's bigger than it looks from the outside: I think we could fit another 4 people in here quite comfortably (come and visit!). This side of the cottage is designed for people to sit looking out towards the lake and the mountains.

 On the other side is a deck looking out over woodland,

where we are sharing the garden with a host of little creatures.

The girls have settled into the downstairs bedroom:

While our bed is so big and high, I have to get into it via a small stepladder!

There is much that is new here.

And so many opportunities to play:

And to simply sit by the water's edge in a great hat. 

But my thoughts are turning to the work ahead. Tomorrow we shall visit Shelburne Farms as one last day off. In retrospect, it was probably not realistic to expect to land in Burlington on Friday and start work on Monday (you reckon?). Getting over the flight, and sorting out the issues has taken longer than we expected (a full three days to buy a car!). But with the main issues resolved -  car bought, insurance arranged, piano purchased, and Bruce's office set up - and school starting next week, we will start to settle into a working rhythm.

I am, however, thinking Bruce and I might spend some of our lunchtimes, when the girls are back at school, kayaking on the lake.

One last sunset picture, because I haven't yet stopped marvelling at the sun on the lake, framed by the misty mountains.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A day in Saratoga Springs

I think we're still jetlagged. Because the plan for today sounded perfectly reasonable this morning - but as the day went on, the logic seemed a little less clear.

We needed to address two issues. The first was that we need to buy a car, and our landlord suggested the best place was in Rutland, a mere hour away to the south. So we decided to head out that way, regardless of the dozens of perfectly good car yards between here and Burlington. The second was that Bruce forgot to bring his akubra with him, and Bruce separated from his akubra is a little like Weetbix without milk, toast without Rose's breakfast marmalade. A web search showed that the only akubras within travelling distance were in Saratogas Springs, an hour or so away from Rutland. So, it seemed to make sense: we'd be half way there when we went to look for the car, and that was surely better than importing a hat from Australia. Bruce's other solution, which was to have someone send him his old hat from home, I rejected on the grounds that the only decent place to send that battered hat was to a garbage can (you see, I'm learning to think in American).

The fact that, regardless of the myriad of things that must be somehow organised (finding a desk for me to work on, getting Lizzy a working piano, working out how I will get to the university from here), we were going to travel over 2 hours to find a hat, somehow escaped us.

It was 29 degrees for most of the day. The car yard in Rutland proved largely unhelpful. We got stuck in a traffic jam for most of an hour. As we drove from village to village, there was nowhere to stop for coffee (antique shops galore - no cafes), so the natives in the back seat became more and more restless. And when we got to the shop in Saratoga, they didn't have Bruce's hat in the right size. So, we're home from a trip which took the best part of 9 hours without a car or a hat. In many ways a waste of a day.

And yet. We travelled through beautiful countryside. Vermont and New York are so green. Greener than New Zealand (you thought that wasn't possible?) - the fresh, glossy green that I associate with late spring or early summer, not late summer. The land here feels at once familiar and strange. Sometimes I think, looking at the flowers in the hedgerows and the rolling green fields, that Vermont is like England - but then the villages are inhabited by wooden colonial houses, hung with American flags. Sometimes, looking at the hills - the Adirondack mountains and the hills in the national park - I think this could be New Zealand, but the light is different. While in New Zealand the mountains are either fully visible with sharp detail, or invisible, depending on the weather, these hills are veiled, like blue shadows. Looking at them, I think of Tennyson's "the hills are shadows and they flow".

Some of the villages are so delightful, we longed to explore them - and we will. One place we stopped at, and which we will visit again, was Brandon.

We marvelled at the gothic mansions in Saratoga.

And the town itself was vibrant and rich - fabulous shops, an obsession with racing and the arts:

That's a ballet slipped they're posing with
And, oddly enough, a series of shops devoted to dogs:

On our way home, we took the ferry across the lake, at Ticonderoga.

Our girls, accustomed to the Interislander, were of the view that this was not, in fact, a ferry. 

So, when we think back over the day, it doesn't matter that we came home empty handed. It was a day when we explored a new part of this world, gained a sense of the shape and possibilities of the area south and west of Ferrisburgh, and found places that we will take the time to discover, more fully, in the weeks to come.

Monday, August 19, 2013

By the lake

We have settled into our cottage in North Ferrisburgh. It is a lake cottage, with a homey bach-like feel to it. The sunsets over the lake are something to be believed.

There's plenty to do in the water.

That's Bruce, Emil and Lizzy in the row boat

We have been blueberry picking at a nearby farm.

On our first day here, we went past this sign. what could it mean?

Turns out an ice cream social involves sitting in the sun in a beautiful garden, eating homemade blueberry pie and ice cream. What's not to love about that?

We head off on our first trail (the girls complaining bitterly)

And find ourselves in fields of wild flowers.

And at the end of the day, we're sitting on the deck, drinking Vermont wine, which turns out to be really quite good. And I wonder, how will I ever wind myself up to write a book in this lovely, quiet place?