First month in Vermont

So we’ve already been in Bristol for a bit over a month.  So far we are really enjoying it for the most part.  Kristin has been busy at work unpacking and getting the house into shape.  We’ve been whipping the garden into shape, although the season is nearly over.  We’ve planted some cold tolerant veggies in a couple of raised beds (one existing, one hacked together with spare cedar shingles).  Hoping they get enough of a start before the first good cold snap.  We’ve planted lettuce, radishes, kale, rutabaga, carrots, Asian greens and some other things.

I’ve also tilled most of the garden and put down some cover crops.  We already have a nice crop of buckwheat goingWinterRye on one side of the garden and I just planted another section of winter rye.  If all goes well, we might even get a few loaves of bread out of it.  But mostly it’s just for green manure and to keep our good soil in place over the winter.  The soil in this garden is gorgeous, rich stuff.  Our landlords did a lot of amending over the years (manure, compost, cover crops) and it has made a big difference.  It’s teeming with life, both visible and invisible.

HoopsWe put up some low hoops over the beds as well, using Agribon AG-19 row cover material over some PVC pipe planted in the ground over some rebar.  This only gives us frost protection down to 28 degrees, so we’ll probably lose most of the plants at some point.  But combined with some mulch, it might get us towards the end of the year. We are using this time to experiment with some of the techniques we’ve been reading about, so it will be interesting to see how things go.

Working from home has its pluses and minuses, but it has mostly been going well.  I built a new PC because my old desktop was just too slow and that has helped.  It’s nice to have lunch with Kristin most days and have no commute.  Focus can be hard at times, but I think I’m getting the hang of it.

As far as Bristol, it’s a nice quiet town, but lots of people out and about.  Friendly neighbors. Beautiful setting.  One nice change from Chicago is that it doesn’t take forever to get basic life stuff done.  I’m talking about getting a driver’s license, setting up bank accounts and utilities or finding healthcare.  There are less options to be sure, but the options that are here have been easy to find, get set up and the quality has generally been very good.  We have a wealth of hikes within a 10 mile radius, which is a welcome change from having to drive hours to find good hiking in Illinois.  Even after a month, the geography is still stunning and only promises to get more that way as we are seeing the first hints of the beautiful fall foliage Vermont is famous for.

There are some things that we are still trying to adapt to.  Driving everywhere for the most part, unless we want to just walk into town for something.  Fortunately we have a great bakery, several grocery stores (including a natural foods/organic store that is awesome), drug store, hardware store and most importantly brewpub right in town.  But for anything else we have to drive.  We are starting to make some connections with people, but it is taking some time.  It’s not easy to find a lot of the ethnic food or groceries that were so easy to come by in Chicago, although there is no shortage of great food here and some good Vietnamese places in Burlington.  Church options are not plentiful, although we’ve found very good community vibes and friendly people at the ones we’ve visited.  Still not sure if we’ve found our place yet.  Certainly nothing like Chicago where there were a variety of good options, although some were a bit of a drive, probably more than from our place to Burlington here.

We are starting to move into a more intense baby mode now. Kristin has found the midwife practice she is going to use and we have a birthing center picked out.  We are starting to buy all the “stuff”, although doing a lot of research.  Tonight we have our first birthing class.  We are down to about 10 weeks, which will probably fly by very quickly.

I’m sure there is more I could write about, but that’s a good start for now.

Life Changes

Well, 2011 is shaping up to be a big year for Kristin and I.  Some of you know and some of you don’t that we have been interested in quite awhile in moving somewhere back east and eventually buying some land.  There are certainly things about the city we still enjoy very much, but over the past couple of years we’ve become increasingly dissatisfied with life here in Chicago.  Part of it is just the politics, lack of room and cost of living.  But mostly we are finding that all the stuff we like to do keeps going back to having land and space to spread out.  All of our hobbies take up room, including homebrewing, baking, canning and preserving, music and gardening.  And our interest in food, particularly the sustainable, grow it yourself kind requires land.  Neither of us are Midwesterners and we wouldn’t be in the Midwest other than Chicago.

So over the past 4-5 years, we’ve been doing lots of research on farming, animals, gardening and places to live.  We’ve visited quite a number of farms, including a lot of dairy goat farms and cheese operations.  We decided to put our condo on the market almost 2 years ago, realizing the timing sucked, but not realizing how bad.  We finally got a buyer in May of this year and after a long ordeal involving FHA approval and various other issues we were able to close on the sale of our condo last week.

Initially we had thought about taking a year and traveling/interning in various places before settling down, but since our condo took so long to sell we decided against that.  We had visited and considered various places, but the one that kept coming up to the top of the list was Vermont.  I think there are a variety of reasons.  One, it is one of the most food oriented states around, with lots of CSAs, cheese-makers, food co-ops and opportunities to buy local food.  Not to mention still proudly holding the title of most brew pubs per capita of any state.  We like that it’s fairly sparsely populated, with a lot of areas that are still relatively undeveloped and a dedication to green spaces and wilderness areas.  A big reason is that the state is just absolutely stunning, with an amazing mix of mountains, gently-rolling hills, forest, pastures and lakes and rivers.  And we also find the progressive politics to be a better fit for us than the corruption and ineffectiveness that is Illinois politics.

So in August we are moving to Vermont.  We’ll be renting a house in Bristol with a garden, wood stove, and plenty of storage, among other cool things.  Bristol is one of those quintessential Vermont villages.  It’s located about 30-40 minutes south of Burlington and about 15 minutes from Middlebury.  Our landlords are part-time farmers about 10 minutes south and I’ve already been enjoying getting to know them.

More to come later.  I’m hoping this move and the chance to do a lot of things we’ve been dying to do will spark more frequent updates to this blog.  But we’ll also be very busy for awhile, so feel free to ping me and ask how we are doing.